Changing the ‘Patrón Mentality’: San Antonio City Council Passes Women’s Equity Resolution

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(center) Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran (D3) speaks to reporters following the passing of a resolution in support of women's equity.

Shari Biediger / Rivard Report

(center) Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran (D3) speaks to reporters following the approval of a resolution in support of women's equity.

Recognizing that women have made strides in achieving parity in health, safety, and economic opportunity, the San Antonio City Council unanimously passed a resolution Thursday that acknowledges there’s still room for improvement.

The resolution sponsored by councilwomen Rebecca Viagran (D3), Shirley Gonzales (D5), and Ana Sandoval (D7) states that the City is committed to eliminating all forms of violence against women, to promoting the health and safety of women, and to promoting substantive economic, business, and leadership opportunities for women in San Antonio.

The women’s equity resolution is a formal way of saying, despite the advances already made, problems remain and the city can do better, Sandoval said. And approval of the resolution is the first step toward funding the strategies and initiatives that will solve those problems.

“Thanks to the leadership of the councilwomen and the mayor, we have made progress … but there’s still a lot of work to be done,” City Manager Sheryl Sculley said. “We need to continue this and make this an even higher priority than it has been in the past.”

The resolution addresses issues such as San Antonio’s increasing number of domestic violence cases, teen pregnancy rates that are higher than the national average, and a lack of pay equity, opportunity, and representation. On average, San Antonio women earn less money, own fewer businesses, and have less access to capital than their male counterparts.

“Today, I’m still fighting the same battles that my mother and grandmother fought,” said Monica Trevino-Ortega, a member of the Latino Leadership Institute of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, in asking the council to support the resolution and to push for equal pay for equal work. “I have two daughters, and I have made it my life’s work so that 30 years now they’re not fighting my battles.”

Gonzales said the resolution will help support “ambitious women” who come forward and help tackle the city’s biggest issues, providing them with the respect they deserve. She also noted that voters last week approved a city charter amendment that will limit the salary and tenure of future city managers, a vote seen as a reaction to Sculley’s $475,000 base salary.

“The votes that came up in regard to our city manager and her salary and her ambition and determination was a result of the fact that we as a community don’t like ambitious women,” Gonzales said. “And so, I urge all of you out there to please help us change that stigma, that we can be ambitious, fighters, strong, and polite, too, and not to mistake that politeness for a lack of ambition.”

Sandoval, whose District 7 has had four women serve on City Council since 1977, recognized women “who have paved the way” for her and others. Lila Cockrell became the country’s first female mayor of a major metropolitan city when she was elected here in 1975.

But because San Antonio has had only 28 women serve as either mayors and councilwomen and 75 men in those roles, Sandoval said, it’s time for change. “If women are limited, I feel our whole community is limited,” she said.

Viagran said the resolution is about ending institutional racism and sexism in the city, a campaign promise she made in 2017.

“One of the things we are working toward as well is dismantling a patrón mentality,” Viagran said. “Not to replace it with a different mentality but to create an alliance between men and women who have to work together to move forward this great city. And we are taking a step here, and these things are just a step because we still have to work with you all toward on strategies on how we implement this.”

Mayor Ron Nirenberg said the resolution is an affirmation of a community’s values that are placed into the historical record, and nothing more than a record, “unless we act upon it.”

Viagran told reporters after the Council session: “We’re not just going to do a resolution. We’re also going to put strategies in place to move the needle on these issues, including women representation on our boards and commissions.”

Of San Antonio’s 1.5 million residents, 51 percent are women, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. But a City study last month that looked at women and minority participation in municipal government found that women make up only 39 percent of the current membership of the City’s boards and commissions. As a result, the City developed an action plan to increase diversity on boards and commissions.

Other strategies to improve economic opportunity for women come in the form of City programs like the Small Business Economic Development Advocacy (SBEDA) program, Launch SA, and the employment agency Project Quest. Through SBEDA, City contract dollars paid to local women-owned businesses have increased from 3 percent in 2011 to 17 percent in 2017.

The city manager has also implemented programs to increase the number of women executives at City Hall, boosting representation from 26 percent female in 2005 to 43 percent today.

Though the resolution is not meant to dictate how many women will be appointed to boards, elevated to leadership roles, or earn funding for small businesses, the councilwomen and mayor said it will focus more attention on eliminating barriers that keep women from achieving their goals.

“This council has made equity a foundational principle for everything we do,” Nirenberg said. “I’m gratified by the work of my colleagues in bringing forward this resolution.”

Women’s health is another major focus of the resolution, and Gonzales hopes it results in a redirection of funds toward agencies that are working on the issues and to Bexar County and other partnering entities.

“The idea is we prioritize women’s issues and funding to make sure these outcomes are realized – reduction in child abuse, reduction in infant mortality,” Gonzales said. “That is going to require redirection of some of our funding. The city is still falling drastically behind in some of these things and, really, to be the great city that we all desire to be, we’ve got to focus our attention on these issues.”

11 thoughts on “Changing the ‘Patrón Mentality’: San Antonio City Council Passes Women’s Equity Resolution

  1. “the councilwomen and mayor said it will focus more attention on eliminating barriers that keep women from achieving their goals.”

    Are there specifics on what barriers there are and how they plan to remove them?

  2. Let’s start with equal justice. Women receive far more lenient sentences when they murder men (Frances Hall) and when they abuse young boys (countless school incidents).

  3. Hi Shari,

    Great job on an inspiring and important topic. A point of information or two: Project Quest isn’t an employment agency – it’s a workforce development element. And the City has its own version called “Training for Job Success,” funded by federal dollars (and located within DHS). They both provide wraparound case management to help students pay for and graduate into high-demand occupations which lifts them and their families out of poverty. Crucial stuff.

  4. This is another example of trying to be a progressive and ignoring the fact that they need to run our City, we need more sidewalks, fix pot holes, make the school zones safer among other things, not make useless proclamations.
    Also since Sculley came here she has put more women in charge of important departments and fired many long term male employees. She is already doing what they want.

  5. The first time I heard that women earn less than men, I nearly choked on my food (served by a waitress who earns more than I do) at a café (owned by a woman who earns more than I do) before returning to work (for a woman who earns more than I do).

    What is implied — but not stated — in the ’79 cent mantra’ is that such inequality is due to discrimination. This is an erroneous assumption.

    The first assumption is that the statement is based on straight wages. It is not! Men do earn more than women but it is based on a number of factors.

    * Men, on average, work more hours (even in cases where both report full-time employment, the average man works six hours more per week than the average woman).
    * Their job entails more hazardous assignments (92% of workplace deaths occur to men, even more for battlefield fatalities).
    * They are more apt to move overseas or to an undesirable location (off-shore work, anyone?).
    * Men often accept more-technical jobs with less people contact (most engineers are men, same with accountants).

    Judging from the job choices they make, women are more likely to balance income with a desire for safety, fulfillment, flexibility, potential for personal growth, and proximity-to-home. These are not bad things.

    The ‘Equal Pay Day’ folks have re-defined earnings as payment for the same hours for the same work. But this contains erroneous assumptions as well.

    Many women have gaps in their employment that were spent in giving care for their children. In my personal experience, I subjugated my career to be a stay-at-home dad.

    When I re-entered the workforce, I did not expect to earn as much as my friends who stayed on the job. No discrimination here. Not every woman takes time off from work — but enough do such that it skewers the statistics.

    When I did re-enter the workforce, I accepted a job that entailed 30 hours a week so I could pick up my son from school and spend time with him on weekends. My co-worker who worked 40 hours a week — and was always available for overtime — received promotions more than me.

    Again, there was no prejudice. Even though two people may do the same job, the person with more experience often receives the larger salary.

    Statistics offered by the pay gap people will lump the salaries of all medical doctors together. This erroneous assumption falls apart when one realizes that male physicians are more likely than women to pursue higher-stress specialties with unpredictable hours, thus enjoying greater pay.

    The ‘Occupy Protests’ brought to light an interesting observation. The top one percent of the population control 42 percent of our country’s wealth. Because the vast majority of these one percenters are men, their earnings skew the statistics for women all the way down the line. Chances are, you and I will never be in the one percent, but their earnings can cause a lot of erroneous assumptions.

    Yet, the ‘Equal Pay’ folks insist on believing women are at a disadvantage in the ordinary workplace. Erroneous assumption again!

    According to a 2010 Time magazine article, “in 147 out of 150 of the biggest cities in the U.S., the median full-time salaries of young women are 8% higher than those of the guys in their peer group.”

    It is much the same in the United Kingdom. In 2011, the Independent reported that “women aged between 22 and 29 in employment are now earning more on average per hour than men of the same age.”

    Dr. Warren Farrell (former board member of the New York National Organization for Women), arrived at the same conclusion in his book, “Why Men Earn More”; “women earn more when they work equal hours at the same job with the same size of responsibility for the same length of time with equal productivity, etc.”

    An oft-repeated argument against such ‘politically incorrect’ beliefs is the charge of a hatred of women. But just as patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel, the first defense of a misandrist is to pull out the ‘misogynist’ label.

    It is not sexist to recognize the truth. Who exhibits the greater bias: the one who believes women are poor helpless creatures who need governmental favoritism, or the one who believes women are whole and strong and able to be treated equally in any situation?

    Name-calling is not the only propaganda technique used by the ‘Equal Pay’ party. The adage, ‘If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth,’ has been bouncing around since the days of the Nazi Party. Perhaps some people have come to believe discrimination is the cause of income disparity because it has been repeated so loudly for so long.

    The pay gap contingent will have none of these facts. They insist that all things being equal, women make less than men and it’s because of prejudice.

    The erroneous assumption is apparent when considering self-employed women. In his article, “Men Don’t Have it Easy Either,” Marty Nemko finds that working women who have no boss (they own their own business) “earn only 49% of what the average male business owner earns.”

    A Rochester Institute of Technology study may explain this. It was found that money was the primary motivator for only 29 percent of women versus 76 percent of men. According to Nemko, “Women put a premium on shorter work weeks, proximity to home, fulfillment, autonomy, and safety.”

    More females than males finish high school. More women than men enter — and finish — college. Why is this not reflected in wages? The correlation between education and earnings is not a myth. What is a myth is the erroneous assumption that men earn more than women due to prejudice.

    If women earned less than men for the same work, why would anyone hire a man? ”Ah, ha,” the pay gappers may exclaim, “this accounts for the he-cession.” Well, no. That is another erroneous assumption. The majority of jobs that were lost in the recession were in the ‘high-dollar’ blue-collar industries like construction; jobs that most women avoid.

    The Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963 to abolish wage disparity based on sex. So why do we need additional governmental regulation? If a woman believes she earns less than a man due to discrimination, she can take it to federal court.

    Where are these women who earn 79 cents for every dollar a man earns anyway? One could save 21 cents on the dollar if he or she sought treatment from a female dentist. Want to cut your legal expenses? Hire a woman lawyer! Think how much taxpayers are saving for enlisting all those women soldiers. And Americans save money for every woman politician. The taxpayer must be saving millions!

    No, this is an erroneous assumption. Just as the gender pay gap is an erroneous assumption.

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