A Prince George's County task force has determined that the average pay of female employes of the county government is 22 percent less than that of their male counterparts, but it said that sex discrimination is not necessarily the cause.
The county's human resources advisory committee recommended in its report, released yesterday, that the county move to close the gap by encouraging its female employes to move into higher-paying technical and professional jobs through a combination of job training and internal recruiting.
But County Executive Parris Glendening said that the government cannot immediately fund the most expensive of the committee's suggestions: increasing salaries in female-dominated jobs across the board.
The committee's handling of what has become known as the "comparable worth" issue mirrors similar efforts in nearby jurisdictions where panels have been formed to examine the compensation and representation of women in government.
"I have not met a single employer that felt they could afford it initially," said Diana Rock, director of women's rights for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).
Among other things, the Prince George's committee found that most of the women in the county's 3,800-member work force, which is 31 percent female, are concentrated in traditional jobs such as secretary or clerk but that only 28 percent of the county's professionals are women.
The report also suggested that the county set up apprenticeships and a system to determine how female employes progress through the ranks.
"To some extent we are fighting history in this situation," Glendening said at a news conference in Upper Marlboro yesterday.
Glendening said that because there is such a low turnover among county employes, it will be difficult to correct inequities by hiring from the outside. But he said he is "confident" that the county will be able to implement "a fair number" of the committee's recommendations.
Prince George's male and female public employes are closer in pay than public employes are nationally, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures supplied by the AFSCME.
Prince George's personnel officer Mary Godfrey maintained that the pay gap is even narrower once factors such as seniority and union representation are taken into account.
While Prince George's female workers earn 78 percent of what their male counterparts earn, nationally, female state and local employes earn 71.5 percent.
Within the private sector, that figure falls to 56 percent.
In Montgomery County, where a study group is expected to report on its findings by July 1, the figure is just above 80 percent, according to Coleman Raphael, the chairman of that jurisdiction's compensation task force.
"That in itself is not prima facie evidence that it is discrimination," said Raphael, who is chairman of the board of the Alexandria-based Atlantic Research Corp.
"Are the starting salaries unfair?" he queried. "How do you determine that?"
But attorney Winn Newman, another member of the Montgomery study group who has led the national fight for comparable worth, said that governments should be held responsible for such pay discrepancies.
"The county has an obligation to determine whether their wage rates are discriminatory," he said.
Added Patricia Thomas of the Service Employees International Union: "We find a great bit of denial on the part of state and local governments." HIGHLIGHTS OF TASK FORCE REPORT
* The county's female employes earn, on the average, 78 percent of what their male counterparts make.
* Thirty-one percent of the county's 3,800 employes are women with most concentrated at the lower end of the pay scale in clerical and secretarial jobs.
* Twenty-eight percent of the county's professional workers are women.
* The county should encourage women with children to remain in the work force by allowing job sharing, flexible schedules and more part-time work.
* Women should be recruited and provided with apprenticeships in nontraditional technical and public safety jobs.
* A tracking system should be funded to follow the movement of women in county government.
* County schools should have a program to encourage female students to seek nontraditional careers.