UMass Boston research explores how women use new skills to negotiate higher salaries, improve gender equity in their workplaces
A qualitative case study of working women who took part in salary negotiation workshops offered by the Mayor’s Office of Women’s Advancement in partnership with the American Association of University Women (AAUW) finds many participants used their training to improve their own salary and advance gender equality in the workforce. Researchers from the McCormack Graduate School’s Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts Boston cited this, among other findings in a report released today at the new Edgerley Center for Civic Leadership at the Boston Foundation.
The report, Gaining Ground on Equal Pay: Empowering Boston’s Women Through Salary Negotiation Workshops, is based on in-depth interviews with some of the nearly 1,800 women who attended the first year of the AAUW Work Smart in Boston workshop program. The workshops, based on the Work Smart and Smart Start curricula developed by former Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Evelyn Murphy, are designed to empower women to negotiate higher pay and reduce the gender wage gap, giving them research tools, communications skills and strategies to negotiate their salaries with greater knowledge and confidence.
Researchers interviewed more than 50 women who took part in workshops between September 2015 and September 2016, to learn how the workshops impacted their knowledge about the causes and persistence of the gender-based wage gap and how to apply the knowledge gained in their own salary negotiations.
“The City of Boston can only thrive when men and women have an equal playing field, and these workshops are one way to provide women with the tools and information they need to advocate more effectively,” said Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh. “When we combine this with our efforts to address pay equity with businesses and the legislation we passed last session, we create a coordinated top-down, bottom-up effort to close the wage gap.”
The interviewers found 87% of the women who completed the workshops took action by identifying target salaries, and nearly half either negotiated increased compensation in their current job or obtained a competitive salary for a new job – but the impact reached well beyond salary negotiation.
“We found that women who took part in these workshops engaged in actions that reached far beyond the metric of a pay increase,” said Ann Bookman, Director of the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy at UMass Boston, which produced the report. “For example, they identified and utilized online resources; benchmarked the correct compensation level for various positions; started conversations about equal pay with their supervisors and co-workers – and probably most important, they became advocates on their own behalf.”
Researchers note the workshops also had a ripple effect – many of the women in the workshop said they shared the lessons they learned with others in their workplaces and in their social networks including family, friends, and colleagues.
“These workshops have the potential to shift the dialogue about wage and gender far beyond any one conference room or one meeting hall to the overall civic dialogue of the city,” said Paul S. Grogan, President and CEO of the Boston Foundation. “As the lessons of these workshops spread across neighborhoods and generations, we begin to create transformative momentum that could close the gender wage gap once and for all.”
While the research highlighted how extensively workshop participants used the lessons they learned, it also provided valuable feedback for improving the workshop content. For example, the interviews highlighted participants’ desire for post-workshop activities such as networking with peers and having mentors to help them hone their skills. Many women have now become part of a growing movement that extends far beyond Boston to increase pay equity.
The AAUW Work Smart in Boston workshops continue this fall as part of a 5-year investment by Mayor Walsh and the City of Boston. The Boston Foundation provided seed funding for the workshops, as well as financial and editorial support for the qualitative research by UMass Boston. To learn more about upcoming workshops, interested women can go to boston.gov/women.