Mayor: Somerville will tackle gender wage gap

Taking local aim at a societal problem, Somerville has launched an effort to narrow the gender wage gap in the city.

Under the plan announced by Mayor Katjana Ballantyne, Somerville is providing one-time grants to support initiatives by local nonprofits addressing pay disparities between men and women. The city in particular wants to support projects that create and maintain employment opportunities for low- and moderate-income women, especially women of color.

Ballantyne in December committed $2 million for the program, using part of Somerville’s allocation from the 2021 federal American Rescue Plan Act. Organizations have until Jan. 31 to apply.

“It’s 2023, and women still earn $17 less for every $100 earned by men,” Ballantyne said, highlighting the grant program in her Jan. 3 annual State of the City address. “The gap grows even bigger for mothers and women of color. The gender wage gap threatens not only the economic security of Somerville women, but also their families and children. We must do better to break this cycle, and Somerville will do better with this vital step forward.”

“We are looking for innovative, forward-thinking projects that create not just jobs, but careers, for low and moderate-income Somerville women,” Ballantyne said earlier, in announcing the initiative. “I know our area nonprofits will answer this call with gusto.”

Women in 2021 nationwide earned 83 cents for each dollar made by men, according to federal data. Massachusetts adopted an equity pay law in 2016, but since then the state’s gender gap has risen by two cents, with women now making 81 cents for every dollar earned by men, the Globe reported in July.

City officials are not aware of another municipality with a local program to tackle the gender gap.