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#OneRouge Friday Community Check-In (Week 92)

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in EBR, The Walls Project has been hosting weekly video calls with leaders of nonprofits, foundations, city government, and local businesses from a

cross the parish. The intention of these weekly community check-ins is to share information and resources to help the Baton Rouge community respond and recover from the pandemic. Weekly topics range from access to basic needs such as food, medical care, and safety to thought-leaders' insights on equitable opportunities for youth enrichment, nonprofit financial solvency, surge in unemployment, and the disproportionate impact on impoverished neighborhoods in regards to accessing fresh food.


'Intersectional Pay Equity'

Meeting Notes Prepared by Samantha Morgan (Walls Project)


Shannon Melluzzo - American Heart Association

Advocacy Impact Pilot Goals:

  • Support long-term, equity-centered policy change in the city-parish of East Baton Rouge that improves the health of children and their families.

  • Fund organizations who collectively advance policy issues that have been identified by the communities most impacted by health disparities and led by these same communities.

  • Policy Campaigns

  • 3-4 policy change campaigns will be funded by up to $100,000 to support non-lobbying and lobbying activities for up to 24 months.

  • Policy Campaigns must focus on changing public policy through official channels, such as an executive order through the Mayor’s Office, passing an ordinance through the Metropolitan Council, or East Baton Rouge School Board policies.

  • This project will focus on engaging collaborating and funding organizations led by people with lived experiences and with leadership from Black and Brown communities.

Equity in Governance:

  • Campaigns should use policy change to alter the way governmental systems function to make more equitable. Examples of campaigns could include advocating for equity screenings for all proposed legislation in front of the city council, establishing needed offices or positions to help governing/government be more equitable, or other related campaigns the community sees as a solution to inequities in governance.

Potential Equity in Governance policy solutions could include:

  • Formation of Committee on Racial Justice

  • Forming an Anti-Racism and Racial Equity Cabinet operationalize racial equity across full administration

  • Legislation creating Interagency Cultural and Ethnic Communities Leadership Council or Anti-Racism Council, to systematize community leadership and engagement.

  • Reformulating fiscal notes to embed racial and intersectional equity criterion and analysis Reversing or amending current policies that further inequities

  • Required Anti-Racism Orientation and training for all city/county staff and policymakers

  • Establish Center for Anti-Racism in city agency


Policy issue and campaign questions

Christine Compton, Policy Engagement Manager

Application, Budget or Online System Questions:

Shannon Melluzzo, Manager, Advocacy Grants

Equal Pay Pre-Read Resources:

Morgan Udoh

Welcome to our Intersectional Pay Equity conversation. Throughout our conversations on pay equity, there has been a wealth of engagement on how to further this conversation in regards to not just race and gender, but also being gender expansive to go beyond the binary to look at how racial pay equity disparities are affected by colorism, how pay equity is affected by disability being and the accommodations that we do or do not provide, and just the multitude of ways that pay equity can be disturbed by our many identities and the intersection of those identities. Today, we're going to be listening to two amazing speakers and then continuing on the conversation. From there, I am going to drop in for our regular reference a list of terms into the chat by a document so that we all have the common language from which to engage in this conversation appropriately, because I know that is what we all want to be respectful and reverent of the many identities that we all share while doing so. But sometimes we just need a little help with the words.

SK Groll

I think Morgan and I were both really excited about previous conversations about pay equity and so heartened that we also wanted to push the boundaries of that. So many different things that we consider exceptionally. We wanted to push equity conversations into the intersectional space.

Dr. Sarah L. Webb (Founder, Colorism Healing)

Baton Rouge is my hometown. I grew up there. Defining colorism. A lot of people haven’t heard that term. Colorism is a system of social stratification. This hierarchy is based on skin tone. We often use skin tone to define race. People of the same race can have different skin tones. That’s where colorism comes into play. I often refer to racism as a checkbox. Colorism requires direct engagement with the image and the skin tone of the person. Within a race there are inequalities. So often when we’re talking about inclusion we’re looking across racial groups, most commonly white and brown. What often goes unnoticed, even amongst brown people there are inequalities among education and healthcare and wages and income. Much of that comes from generational cycles. Those of mixed race ancestry were allowed access to schooling and education much earlier than darker. When we look at the present moment, implicit bias does happen. It’s important to keep in mind that even white people can express colorism among darker skinned candidates. Skin tone can have a higher influence on someone’s value rather than experience. Girls with very dark skin tone are three times more likely to be suspended than a lighter skinned person of the same race. A lot of darker skinned African Americans have seen education as a pipeline to prison or a lower socioeconomic workforce. Looking at other studies that access Latin Americans, they’re more likely to gain positions of prestige if they have more European features. If they have more afro features they have lower wage jobs. We see representation in executive jobs increase with lighter skin tone. The wage gap widens with skin tones. For Latin X populations, we see wage gaps as wide as 20 to 25%. I think there’s a lot of oversight in the demographic data we represent. I often tell people that if you care about racism, you have to understand where color is a barrier. We’re not looking at the full problem.

Jane Mitchell (CFO, Rep Cap Media)

I’m going to start with the work I'm passionate about. I’m interested in education and I speak to employers about how they can create a safer and more inclusive environment for LGBTQ people. There are a lot of cases that center around discomfort around LGBTQ people. They don’t always know what a safe environment looks like. They’re scared to offend someone. I spend a lot of time talking about LGBTQ literacy and helping people become more comfortable having these conversations. Treat people the way they want to be treated. A lot of times we get very worked up about what’s the right or appropriate thing to do and we lose sight about going to that person and asking them how they want to be addressed. When we talk about pay gaps, there is a lack of data. What we do know is that trans and nonbinary people are generally paid less. Another issue is the rate of unemployment is twice the average. There are a number of barriers of trans people in the workplace. A lot are big systemic things and others are small things we can all do. Outside of that, I work for Rep Cap. My background is accounting so I’m heavily focused on our accounting and finance, and I also touch on other things such as HR. We started out with 10 at the beginning of the year and at the end of next week we’ll have 15. I’m very interested in what will help improve diversity in our team. We practice pay transparency. That scares a lot of people. A lot of us grew up thinking that pay should be kept private. I think that’s largely to the benefit of employers. Really clearly setting roles. The concept of pay transparency shouldn’t be a foreign concept because in government positions you can find out what people are being paid. It holds employers accountable. That’s one solution we can work towards for more pay equity.

Sk Groll - I wanted to give a couple of pieces of data and also questions for organizations. In work, outside of the walls project I also work with a collective called Title NOLA. It has been a great resource working in New Orleans and outside the state. It’s a trans-led collective of folks who are doing these advocacy leadership training as well as consulting for organizations to assess that equity. Finding out what needs to happen and what steps need to be taken to make sure that equity isn’t just lip service but actually moving people into leadership positions and decision making. When we talk about implicit bias, like race, LGBT, that has gone down, but when we think about colorism, the percent of that bias has gone down about half that it’s gone down with LGBT. The conversations that Dr. Webb is bringing up is still relevant. I do have questions both as a neuro divergent and otherwise engaging adult in workplaces is how are we setting up our workplaces for all people inside of them? Are we offering accommodations before it’s forced? What are the small things we can do there? Have we done equity analyses in our organizations? How many of the people on this call have done this? Have we pushed beyond just race and gender? Have we started moving towards cultural humility trainings. And if we have, have we moved to take action steps afterwards? How are we asking these questions? We didn’t talk today about citizenship status or formerly incarcerated folks because there’s just too much to cover in one session. It’s important to keep asking those questions. No one set up these structures the way that they are. We all have something to do with the spaces that we are in. I’m thinking about what Jane said about pay transparency. Sarah I’m thinking about who holds these biases. Just noticing the bias we’re holding and let it not be neutral because those biases are set by the larger society around us.


Dr. Webb

I’ll briefly speak on the questions that came up about texturism and futurism. Both of those are relatively newer terms that talk about a facet of colorism. But it is those physical features we tend to associate with race. The more European that hair texture or facial feature, then the more value is given in society.

Passing is not exactly colorism, but it is related because it recognizes that more European features grants better access in society.

One of the challenges I’ve had is there are certain communities that even though they will come to me privately they are not willing to come out publicly. How do we build a safer environment where marginalized communities can actually be at the table and add their input. It is hard to change policy when those voices are not there? How do we make that possible?

Dr. Sarah Webb

There’s greater risk for some people than there are for others. When we look at other layers of privilege, those of us who are on a margin can be on the front line of these things. Expanding our networks. Getting to know more people rather than having to rely on a few people to always speak up. There’s strength in numbers. If we can create a space where no one has to be the only one then that risk is mitigated. Those of us who are in margin, but are less so because they are carrying another identity

Jane Mitchell

I think that LGBTQ people who are afraid to come out and be a public voice, I think there are a lot of times when you want to allow people to know that you want a seat at the table, building up that network and finding the organizations that are serving the populations. Reaching out and seeing what they’re doing is a good place to start. Be very vocal, even if you don’t have the representation, it can be helpful to make a stance.

McKinsey Study - For trans people there’s typically a safety vs. visibility. Being a trailblazer also means being highly visible. Even for the most normative of people, safety is a primary concern. Who is actually receiving positive feedback for contributing in that space. Inclusion doesn’t work without safety. Undoing this idea of professionalism. What are the norms of our workplaces. Even in our most progressive environments, we’re not pushing back.

How do we combat the social-led mentality that roles filled by women and minorities deserve less pay? Such as the upcoming cap for traveling nurses being discussed currently in legislation?

Helena Williams - It’s so crazy how I wasn’t even aware of it until I was notified to look for it. It’s not just nursing, it’s any vertical, even if it was predominantly male-dominated. As soon as women shifted into that vertical the rates of pay went down. The other parts of hospital you’ll see, nursing aids and things like that, are held by either women or minorities. While there’s conversations in the legislation, they’re discussing a national cap on traveling nurses because of COVID. These nurses have been able to say whatever rate they want and they have to pay it. The people who are actually making the true money are male dominated positions, they’re not discussing that. This feels like a social thing. Veterinarians is another that used to be male dominated. But as soon as women started to follow that career path, the rates of pay went down. As these areas fill with females and minorities, they need to be valued as much as before. I want to point out graphic design and IT, there’s that opportunity to have the same thing happen there.

Dr. Sarah Webb

When I look at social problems and how they manifest, I think of them being concentric circles. People doing work to check their own biases. Going back to your own hiring practices. What are the biases at this particular place. It does take time. Having efforts on all of those levels expedites that process.

Jane Mitchell

We have a long history of undervaluing work performed by women. I think it would be interesting what GDP would look like if we placed a value on the unpaid work women do. As a type of work becomes more commoditized, it becomes women’s work and then you get a devaluation. Specifically in tech, I have to wonder if one of the reasons women are being pushed out of STEM and tech has to do with a fear that workers in this industry are going to be paid less. As far as the nursing issue, there are a lot of factors going on. My mother is a registered nurse and she’s partly a traveling nurse. I don’t understand the math that’s going on in these decisions. They are threatening to cut hours for their staff people and then they’re bringing in these temp workers and paying them three times as much. I agree this is a real issue. I do think it is rooted in misogyny and capitalism converging together.

Dr. Sarah Webb

It’s become a cultural norm to think about maximizing profit because of capitalism. It is rooted in patriarchy and misogyny. I think family structures. I think about an antidote Oprah said. She went to get a raise and her male counterpart was given more money because he was considered the breadwinner. The patriarchy has created systems not only about the way society operates but cultural mindsets as well. I don’t have the answers about how we do it, but it’s a multifaceted process.

Rev Anderson

I mentioned in the chat that we have to start looking at hidden paychecks and hidden benefits. I think a lot of times the study that just came out on the whole NFL head coaches thing, when they did the deep dive, nothing had change from the day they started football. I don’t think we understand the hidden paycheck. If we’re just looking at dollars, we’re going to miss that most people replicate themselves in every business and industry. Right now we have so many places where the need to have diversity is about saving lives. People don’t see themselves in certain roles are targeted. How do we get people into the pipeline safely to where they have the ability to change public policy.

Dr. Sarah Webb

I often think with my own experience, paying people from marginalized groups more for the invisible paycheck. What would it mean in a society if we paid people more in marginalized communities more than the typical fee.

Alfredo Cruz

Funders for LGBTQ Issues provides some helpful guidelines for nondiscriminatory policies.

If you go to the funders for LGBTQ website there is a fellowship to broaden representation. I offer it to this group how other industries can create spaces for fellowships.

Morgan Udoh

I am wondering if anyone is feeling where do we start? Is this a conversation we continue to discern a path forward for all of our entities? Does it start with getting down to the numbers? Looking at everyone’s pay. I wanted to leave that as an open ended question. Where can we boost those numbers? Is it just to focus on the numbers or is a matter of culture changing? Do we need to make sure that those who are in positions of hiring power have that shared, inclusive language and how our various identities affect the barriers to upward mobility. And making sure they have that background knowledge when they are in those seats of power.

Jane Mitchell

I do think that if you’re in a position in your organization where you can propose these changes, I think a great place to start is to look at your org chart, looking at the diversity. A lot of people dance around these issues. Our goals in expanding is increasing racial diversity amongst our group. You can ask yourself questions. What are we basing this pay on? Is it based on the value they’re adding? Is it based on the college they went to. That’s a great place to start. That will help show you what’s out of whack. What is the reason for pay as it is now? You also have to have a culture that supports that. You have to do all of them. Culture doesn’t happen overnight. It comes from the top of the organization. If you don’t have that at the senior level, it’s not going to work. Who is being left out? Who is being unfairly compensated in an organization? I would start by looking at the organization and seeing where you are and where you’d like to be.

Jane Mitchell

I don’t think there’s a one size fits all solution. I don’t think it’s going to work with some people. I’m a big fan of meeting people where they are. Finding out what their reservations are about making these cultural shifts and speaking a language they will hear. In corporate America, where people at the top are focused on profits and reputation, you can center a conversation around that. This appearance is going to negatively affect the business. It feels gross, but in some cases that’s where you have to have that conversation. If you have a leader who is just not going to hear it, they’re not accountable for changing, if you’re a worker, you always have three choices. If you can’t change the situation, workers should ban together. Every company in the world is dependent on the people who work there. If the people at the top are not hearing it, I think workers need to organize and need to bring these things to everyone’s attention. I think in some cases, it might be that this organization is not going to bend and change, what is your place in a company that is not going to do that and sometimes that leaves us in difficult decisions.

Dr. Sarah Webb

I want to say thank you all for having me here. Each of us has to decide where our sphere of influence is.


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