WOMEN and men deserve equal pay for equal work.

The problem is breaking down institutional and cultural barriers that continue to keep female workers behind. They earn, on average, 77 cents for every dollar men make for the same full-time jobs, according to the National Partnership for Women & Families.

Women in Seattle make 73 cents for every dollar paid to men, which equates to a yearly gap of $16,346 between the two sexes.

Discouraging figures, but the city is right to examine the extent of the problem within its own ranks. Change begins with awareness. If Seattle leaders figure out a fix for their nearly 10,000 employees, others would follow.

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A recent report and list of recommended policy changes by the Gender Equity in Pay Task Force show the gap among city workers is significantly smaller than the national average — women earn 90.5 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts.

The panel found that positions dominated by women, such as administrative support, made less overall compared to jobs held by men and women. Income gaps also widen when comparing women employees of color (who occupy many of the city’s lower-paying jobs) to their white male counterparts (who make up a majority of the city’s workforce and leadership positions).

The report concludes a systemic lack of upward mobility for some has led to job segregation by race and gender. This must change.

Mayor Ed Murray and the Seattle City Council introduced a joint resolution last week promising toclose the pay gaps.

But those same elected officials should be very careful about moving beyond City Hall. Their decision to form the first-ever Gender Pay Initiative to analyze inequities in the private sector is noble, but this effort should focus on ensuring that women have access to training. The resolution calls for mandatory paid family and sick leave programs. This would be on top of a potential $15 minimum wage in Seattle.

Officials must weigh the consequences of new taxes and policies that would take away flexibility from business owners and possibly hurt women and low-income workers.

First, the city should walk the talk and provide equal pay to its own employees.

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Erik Smith, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).