Local mayors share thoughts on pay equity

FARGO - Mayors from Dilworth, Moorhead and Fargo agree that paid maternity and paternity leave are long overdue. During a panel discussion Tuesday, April 3, hosted by the American Association of University Women at the Biltmore Hotel, paid leave ...
Dilworth Mayor Chad Olson, Moorhead Mayor Del Rae Williams and Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney took part in a panel discussion on pay equity Tuesday, April 3. Kim Hyatt / The Forum

FARGO – Mayors from Dilworth, Moorhead and Fargo agree that paid maternity and paternity leave are long overdue.

During a panel discussion Tuesday, April 3, hosted by the American Association of University Women at the Biltmore Hotel, paid leave was one of several areas the mayors were asked to address in regard to pay equity.

Mayor Del Rae Williams, the first woman mayor of Moorhead, noted that Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney makes significantly more than she does. Mahoney’s salary of $50,000 and Williams’ salary of $19,000, however, are both higher than Dilworth Mayor Chad Olson’s estimated salary of $9,000.

Olson said pay equity impacts everyone, and as a social studies teacher at Moorhead High School, he said teachers are paid based on years of experience, regardless of gender.

“During my lifetime the wage gap has decreased by, I think, 50 percent,” Olson said. “That’s pretty darn good.”

However, Olson was quick to note that the incremental steps need to lead to a cultural shift so the top 10 percent of wage-earning jobs can see the gap close as well. Olson said encouraging science and math in the classroom is one way to help close the gap.

Williams said she didn’t know what an industrial engineer was when first selecting a career path. She said she wants to see more women engineers and for people to “change how we look at who is doing what.”

Mahoney, who is a surgeon, said when he first started in medicine women made up 10 percent of the workforce, whereas it’s now more than 50 percent. “There’s no question we have to continue to work at this,” he said.

An AAUW report on pay equity states that typically women earn about 80 cents for every dollar a male worker earns. The organization argues that pay inequality isn’t only a women’s issue but rather a family issue and that equity is key to making ends meet.

At the end of the panel discussion, the mayors signed a proclamation declaring Tuesday, April 10, Equal Pay Day.

West Fargo Mayor Rich Mattern was invited to be part of the panel but was unable to attend.