Policy, Talent
AAUW, American Association of University Women, Boston, gender pay gap, Mayor Walsh, Mayor's Office of Women's Advancement, salary negotiation, Work Smart

Closing the Gender Pay Gap: Free Salary Negotiation Workshops

In 2015 the American Association of University Women (AAUW), Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, and the Mayor’s Office of Women’s Advancement launched a large-scale grassroots initiative to teach and empower women to confidently and successfully negotiate for salary and benefits packages and help close the gender pay gap in Boston. These efforts include free workshops throughout the city for women who live and work in Boston. 

MassTLC had the opportunity to discuss the Work Smart program with Alex Howley, Program Manager of Work Smart in Boston.


What is the goal of the Work Smart program?

Work Smart in Boston is a FREE grassroots salary negotiation workshop program that helps close the gender wage gap by empowering women to evaluate, articulate, and negotiate their value in the job market. Mayor Walsh partnered with AAUW to bring these workshops to Boston because he and the Mayor’s Office of Women’s Advancement wanted to empower individual women in Boston to play a role in closing the gender wage gap.

Why is is this program important?

Lately, celebrities have been speaking out about fair and equal pay. We think it’s important for famous women to use their platforms for good, but we also want regular, everyday women to know that they don’t have to be a celebrity to contribute to the changing dialogue around equal pay.

In Boston, women working full time, on average, make $0.76 to a white male’s $1.00. To make progress, we all have to learn how to engage colleagues and managers in the discussion from informed perspectives. As former Lt. Governor and current Boston Women’s Workforce Council Co-Chair, Evelyn Murphy, says: “women have to act for employers to react.”

Who can attend?

The two-hour workshops are geared toward women, but everyone is welcome. We offer workshops throughout the City of Boston in an effort to train women who work or live in Boston, and we encourage women at every level of their careers and in every field to join us. The workshops focus on negotiation strategy so the participants can apply their new skills to their own individual experiences.

What is the cost?


How many women locally and nationally have you trained in salary negotiation?

Boston was the first city in the U.S. to pilot the Work Smart initiative back in 2015. Our goal is to train 85,000 women — half of Boston’s working women — by 2021. To date, we’ve trained 6,500 women.

Do you have statistics about the impact of the workshop?

We worked with researchers at UMass Boston’s Center for Women in Politics & Public Policy and the Boston Foundation to study the impact of the first year of Work Smart in Boston. The report, Gaining Ground on Equal Pay, explores the complexities of pay inequity through the lens of women’s experiences. Here are some of the most striking examples of positive impact:

  • Nearly 90% of women took some kind of immediate action following the workshop. That could be anything from benchmarking a salary, taking 10 minutes to write down skills and accomplishments, having a conversation with colleagues about fair pay, or making the ask.
  • Workshop participants reported a shift in confidence and increased sense of professional worth
  • The study found that women who took the workshops were contributing to a “ripple effect” in that they started having conversations with friends, family, colleagues, and supervisors about the wage gap and equal pay. This effect plays a major role in shifting our workplace cultures and moving away from the silence and secrecy around fair pay that has perpetuated the wage gap for many years.

Are there opportunities for volunteers who might want to facilitate a workshop?


Individual Opportunity:

We’re always looking for new volunteer facilitators. We’re looking for folks (of any and all genders) who:

  • Have a few extra hours a month to facilitate a workshop and prep for it
  • Are looking for an awesome professional development opportunity
  • And want to help Boston be the first city in the US to close the gender wage gap.

Click here to get started.

Company Opportunity:

Part of Mayor Walsh’s commitment to closing the wage gap in Boston, naturally includes companies, as well as individuals. By signing the Boston Women’s Workforce Council’s 100% Talent Compact, you commit to the following:

  • Assess your own company data to see if wage gaps exist
  • Take steps to address those gaps (you don’t have to tell us what they are!)
  • Anonymously provide data to the BWWC to assess progress for Greater Boston as a whole

Want to get involved in a bigger way? Email us!

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