According to an analysis of wages by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women earn about 78 cents for every dollar men make. Though some would like to believe that women choose lower paying occupations, accounting for lower salaries, the analysis shows that even within specific occupations the wage gaps remain.
For example, a male school teacher makes 13 cents more than a female colleague. Even new college graduates are not immune, with a study by the American Association of University Women showing a 7 percent wage gap between male and female college graduates a year after graduation. This study accounted for choice of major, age, geographical region and hours worked, showing that the gap exists even for younger generations.
Clearly, more work needs to be done to further close this wage disparity and continue the gains that women have seen in the past half century. The gap has closed from 59 to 79 percent in the past 40 years. In Boston, the wage gap is better than the national average, with women earning 83 cents for every dollar men make. Two years ago, former Boston Mayor Thomas Menino committed to making Boston the first U.S. city to close the wage gap. In the intervening years, a variety of programs have been launched to further this goal.
One such program recently launched, offering free, two-hour salary negotiation classes to all women who work within the Boston’s limits. It is estimated that 170,000 women qualify for the classes. Boston officials stress that the program, which is estimated to cost up to $1.5 million, is very important because women are the main breadwinners in a majority of local households. Increasing their pay benefits, the city as a whole and improves the quality of living.
During the two hour sessions, women are led by an experienced instructor who asks them to role-play salary negotiations, gives them advice and walks them through a written guide. The city has partnered with the aforementioned American Association of University Women for its efforts. Though economists contend that salary negotiations account for a small part of the wage gap, Boston officials hope that their program will become a model for the nation.
At a recent class in South Boston, the results of the program were in plain sight. Maria Fernandes, who works at a nonprofit group told the story of asking her former boss for a raise, only to be rebuffed and told that the company was on a tight budget. She later found out that her boss had found a little extra money for her male colleague. Needless to say, she decided to leave that work environment and join a new organization. After leaving the salary negotiation workshop, Fernandes indicated that she planned to ask for a raise at her next performance review. It is in this way that Boston hopes to, little by little, close the wage gap.