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Statewide salary negotiation workshops for women to start in Massachusetts


Free salary negotiation workshops will be offered to women across Massachusetts in an effort to close the gender wage gap. The workshops will be sponsored by the Office of the State Treasurer and Receiver General of Massachusetts and the American Association of University Women.

Facilitators from the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women will lead the workshops at community colleges across the state under a program called “Just Ask” that CSW secretary Nina Kimball said is designed to give women the tools to negotiate the salaries they deserve.

Abigail Lewis, AAUW vice president of campus leadership programs, said the workshops aim to provide participants with information about the wage gap and strategies to advocate for themselves.

Emily Taylor, 28, of Fenway, said she supports the implementation of salary negotiation workshops because they will mobilize women to close the wage gap by acting, rather than passively observing its existence.

“You can go to work and you can read about the wage gap, but that takes coaching to be able to advocate for yourself sometimes,” Taylor said. “That’s what it comes down to. They’re not just going to give you free money. You have to know how to advocate for yourself and negotiate, and that’s not something a lot of people know how to do.”

Kimball said salary negotiation workshops have been held for many years — nearly 5,000 women have already participated in Boston workshops — but they’ve never been implemented statewide before.

“It’s not a new program, but what is new is that this is going to be the first statewide program to provide salary negotiation workshops in the country,” Kimball said. “That’s new, and taking it on that scale is big.”

Kimball said the program is called “Just Ask” because that is a simple step many women don’t take when negotiating their salary.

“What we have found is that women don’t ask for a raise or for more money,” Kimball said. “One of the reasons that there is a gender wage gap is because women simply don’t ask for more pay. The idea is that if women would ‘Just Ask,’ they will get paid more money.”

Jack Kane, 24, of Fenway, said salary negotiation is a difficult skill, especially for people without access to the resources to advocate for themselves.

“I think [salary negotiation] is intimidating for a lot of people,” Kane said. “I just started working this month and I didn’t know the proper steps to take. I’m a college-educated student, so people with lesser education probably have even fewer resources and even less knowledge to go about negotiating a fair salary.”

Lewis said research shows women are less likely to negotiate a fair salary, largely due to negative gender stereotypes.

“We see negotiation sometimes in a very gendered way, in terms of who’s a negotiator and who’s not,” Lewis said. “Women actually negotiate constantly in their lives, but there’s this idea that women are not good at negotiating for their salaries or don’t have negotiating skills.”

Sandra Pires, 39, of Dorchester, said she hopes the workshops help close the wage gap, an important issue to her.

“Women deserve the same great things as men,” Pires said. “We are hard workers like men.”

Lewis said the U.S. economy loses $840 billion per year because underpaid working women don’t have the opportunity to participate in it on equal grounds with men.

“When women don’t get paid a fair salary, what we’re talking about is this money that they can’t put toward their student loan debt,” Lewis said. “It’s money they can’t put toward their education in general, childcare, buying a house or all those other incidentals we have to live by … They can’t participate equally in society at all.”

Kimball said men were the primary breadwinners when the Equal Pay Act was first passed in 1963, so it didn’t affect the economy if women’s wages were lower. However, things have changed, she said.

“That’s not the model we have now,” Kimball said, “So closing that gender wage gap and helping women to be able to get paid better and to be paid and valued for the work they’re doing is important as an economic issue, as a family issue, and for women.”

Kimball said the wage gap narrowed throughout the 1980s and 1990s, but this progress stagnated in the 2000s, with the average Massachusetts woman working full-time earning about 83 cents for every dollar a man earns.

Kimball said the workshops will roll out in conjunction with amendments to the Massachusetts Equal Pay Act, which aim to close the gender wage gap, notably by prohibiting employers from asking a job candidate’s previous salary.


Sarika Ram and Solange Hackshaw contributed to the reporting of this article.

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