Op-ed: Making Pittsburgh Livable for All | Opinion | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper
click to enlarge People walking along Penn Avenue past Heinz Hall in Downtown Pittsburgh - CP PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM
CP photo: Jared Wickerham
People walking along Penn Avenue past Heinz Hall in Downtown Pittsburgh
Last week, Pittsburgh’s Gender Equity Commission released “Pittsburgh’s Inequality Across Gender and Race,” a report highlighting disparities that women — particularly Black women — experience in our city. The findings are grim. For example, Pittsburgh’s Black maternal mortality rate is higher than 97 percent of other cities. Black women in Pittsburgh are also less likely to be employed and more likely to live in poverty than Black women in 85 percent of American cities.

For many of Pittsburgh’s Black residents, these statistics are not surprising. But this is the first time a data-driven model has documented the disparities that Black women and girls face here. For the Gender Equity Commission, this report is just the first step: We need to identify specific issues around race and gender in our city in order to address them. We must face the reality that Pittsburgh is less livable for Black residents — particularly for Black women and girls — than the majority of U.S. cities. The recent assault of two Black women by Exxon gas station owners is an example of the horrifying and outrageous violence that results when sexism and racism are allowed to be the status quo. The factors described in the report are impacting real people, right now. Black women and girls are not just numbers or statistics, and the entire city has an obligation to act. We, as a Commission, have a duty to act.

Reports like the one released last week will help us determine where policy interventions and resources will be the most effective. The University of Pittsburgh’s gender analysis team will release three additional reports over the next few months: 1) a report examining gender and racial equity among city employees, 2) a report focused on the lived experiences of city residents resulting from community conversations and focus groups, and 3) a final report summarizing the findings and making specific policy recommendations.


In addition to the reports we have commissioned from the University of Pittsburgh, the Commission is meeting with individual city departments and examining policies, personnel, budgets, and public services through a gender equity lens. We welcome the participation of interested individuals and organizations who do this work every day and bring their own expertise to the table. Based on the equity disparities identified in this community collaboration and multi-part analysis, the Gender Equity Commission will make policy recommendations to the mayor’s office and city council. We will also create a five-year action plan for the city, then monitor and guide its implementation.

Most importantly, we need to hear directly from the individuals who experience these inequities and to collaborate with the groups who have been leading on these issues for many years, so that together we can form solutions for the city that create real change. We invite the public to participate in the work of the Commission. Please visit our website to find ways to get involved. You can start by emailing to participate in focus groups. Let’s work together to make Pittsburgh a livable city for all.



About the Gender Equity Commission: Created in 2016, the Gender Equity Commission is the product of a grassroots movement called Cities for CEDAW, the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women. Pittsburgh was the sixth U.S. city to pass a CEDAW ordinance, and the first to mandate an intersectional approach to the work, meaning that the Commission must consider the overlap of multiple identities, including gender, race, disability, and sexual identity, that impact the lived experience of our residents. The CEDAW ordinance charges the Commission to oversee gender analyses (such as the one released last week), to create a five-year plan to achieve gender parity in Pittsburgh, and to monitor and guide the implementation of this plan.

The Commission is composed of an Executive Director and 13 volunteer Commissioners who were selected following a community nomination process. The Commissioners represent a diverse range of professional backgrounds, expertise, and intersectional identities.

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