Women in Boston, Massachusetts, make 77 cents on the dollar compared to men. According to the Women’s Workforce Council’s report earlier this year, on an annual average, women earn less than $79,000, while their male counterparts earn more than $103,000, in addition to bonuses, which can be as high as $11,000 per year for men compared to $4,000 for women. To find a sustainable solution for his city’s gender-based salary gap, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh launched a free salary negotiation workshop for women in 2015 titled “Work Smart in Boston,” but it was only this week that the people of Boston learned about the effectiveness of the workshop. On Tuesday, the Boston Foundation released a report, titled “Gaining Ground on Equal Pay,” reporting on the workshop’s results.
“Closing the gender wage gap is not only the right thing to do; it is important to the city’s economy and to the bottom lines of our businesses,” reads a letter in the report signed by the mayor and the president and CEO of the Boston Foundation, Paul Grogan. “Women make up the majority of our population, but like every city and company in the nation, women, especially women of color, are underrepresented and underpaid in our workforce.”
The program, a large-scale grassroots’ initiative by Mayor Walsh, the Office of Women’s Advancement, and the American Association of University Women (AAUW), was launched in the hopes of training and empowering 85,000 women – which is half of Boston’s working women – by 2021. The workshop aims to enable them to confidently and successfully evaluate, articulate and negotiate their worth on the job market.
The report shows that almost 87 percent of the workshop participants used the research tools they received to identify the appropriate salaries for their positions. Close to half actually negotiated increased compensation for their existing job or achieved a competitive starting salary for a new job. “We know that it is not just up to women to negotiate their salaries to close the gender wage gap,” Walsh and Grogan, the authors of the report, write. “But we do know that providing women with concrete tools to empower them to negotiate in their own authentic way is an important factor in changing the culture and closing the gap.”
About 17 percent of women were encouraged by their current employer or colleagues to take the workshop,while 58 percent of participants learned about the workshop through social media. Before attending the workshop, most of the women had some background on the gender-based salary gap situation in their city. According to the report, women were drawn to the workshop to receive information about the gender-based salary gap as well as to connect with other working women to share experiences and stories. About 60 percent expressed an interest in acquiring negotiation skills, be it while getting a new job or advancing to a new position at their current workplace.
According to Pew Research Center, women are either the primary or sole breadwinners in 40% of all households with children living at home in the U.S.
Women in the U.S. make between 77 to 84 percent as much as men do. It would take an extra 44 days of work for women to earn what men did in 2015. Some experts argue that the gap won’t close until 2152. Yet others believe that women’s pay may even surpass that of men in the next few years, arguing that more women are getting college degrees than men and that woman are better at managing their finances. Yet, the AAUW gives these optimists a reality check, pointing out that at every level of academic achievement, women’s median earnings are less than men’s median earnings, and in some cases, the gender pay gap is larger at higher levels of education.
Pay equity also has important economic dimensions, which the White House under former U.S. President Barack Obama worked to address, arguing that equal pay for women would aid the nation’s economic recovery. In 2014, President Barack Obama signed an executive order banning federal contractors from retaliating against employees who discuss their wages. He also signed a Presidential Memorandum directing Labor Secretary Tom Perez to draft new regulations requiring contractors to report summary pay information — including data on race and sex — to the agency. However, the gender-based salary gap cannot be addressed through legislation alone, argues Evelyn Murphy, the former lieutenant governor of Massachusetts and cochair of the Women’s Workforce Council: “It’s actions by all of us. Women have to act for employers to react. Employers have to act to make this change.”