Effective January 1, the YMCA of Greater Houston increased the minimum pay for all frontline, full-time staff to $15 per hour and increased the minimum pay for all part-time staff to $10 per hour. This increase in entry level pay is the first step in addressing equity within the organization and providing more livable wages for the Y’s frontline employees who have been instrumental throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s been a priority for us to elevate the wages of people who are working direct service with our members, program participants, childcare, etc., for a couple of reasons,” said Stephen Ives, the president and CEO at the YMCA of Greater Houston. “One reason is to strengthen the retention and long-term engagement of our staff. We know people form relationships in the work we do, be it the person at the front desk, swim instructor or childcare worker. When people stick with us longer, those relationships go deeper, and the impact is more meaningful for the people we’re working with in the community. So, if we’re going to ask people to commit, it’s important we also make sure we are providing a livable a wage to them so they can have a great experience working for the YMCA and make those kinds of contributions.”
Increased pay for frontline staff is one of the first steps in not only improving employee relationships, but also addressing equity at the Houston Y. Ives said his team is doing a lot of work internally around understanding the ability they have to provide professional growth opportunities to individuals in the community that might not have been available in the past. A large part of this effort is through the YMCA Equity Innovation Center Powered by Reliant.
The center serves as a space for the Houston community to lead, organize, advocate and connect with a shared focus. One such way is through nurturing employee resource groups. “We have an African American resource group, LGBTQ resource group, a women’s leadership resource group, and these are all designed to help folks work, support each other and know they’re supported by their organization in growing their career and strengthening their leadership capabilities. We’ll continue to build out our efforts around providing equitable opportunities for professional development growth and advancement within our organization.”
After a loss of $50 million dollars of revenue due to the pandemic, the Houston Y will use the MacKenzie Scott gift, along with ongoing support from donors and impact members to sustain current efforts, as well as help move forward with refined initiatives that end isolation, fight inequality, address food insecurity, inspire youth to thrive, promote health and wellbeing, remove limits and reimagine opportunities for all, and support refugees and immigrants.
To begin tackling equity within your own community, Ives said you have to start with self-awareness, both individually and as an organization. “Look internally at your practices, your policies, your promotion practices and the representation on your leadership team, down through the organization and begin contemplating way to move to a space where your leadership team is more closely aligned with the makeup of your community,” said Ives. “Sometimes it’s a long process, but once you set your attention and you focus inward, then you’re able to make sure your organization is a beacon of hope and a beacon of opportunity.”