Why Women In The Workforce Don’t Excel & How Boston Is Trying To Help

Speaking of negotiations: apparently the city of Boston has examined the data and come to the conclusion that, while there are structural forces at work as well, including discrimination and mommy-tracking, women are paid less in part because they don’t push as hard during negotiations as men do. For one thing, unless a job ad specifically includes the words “Salary Negotiable,” women often don’t negotiate at all, whereas men still do.

There’s more to the situation than that, though, of course. A recent Harvard Business Review article points out that men have more help getting to the C-Suite in the first place:

women are underrepresented in the top levels of the organization [because] they are over-mentored and under-sponsored. … all stakeholders — men, women, and organizational leaders — can make the playing field more fair. The key is understanding the basic economic motivators behind sponsorship.

That piece echoes the hard truths in MoDo’s elaborate feature about the film industry in the NYT Magazine this weekend, in which she concludes that success “is almost exclusively reserved for young guys in baseball caps who remind older guys in baseball caps of themselves.”

Well, Boston is tapping into its Yankee can-do spirit and is taking on at least part of the problem.

Boston is offering free, two-hour salary negotiation classes to every woman who works in the city. They started in October, two years after former mayor Thomas Menino pledged that Boston would become the first U.S. city to achieve pay parity. …

City officials stress that Boston’s focus on equal pay is an economic imperative. The breadwinners in most local households with children, after all, are women. And since a raft of studies has shown that women don’t negotiate less skillfully, they simply negotiate less often, the central message of the program is: Give it a shot.

The article points out that the city is drawing on, to some extent, the successful example set by Harvard Business School, which managed to close its “grade gap” not long after it managed to understand the problem at the root of it.

“Heightened consciousness among the faculty and students probably made the biggest difference,” said Robin Ely, an organizational behavior professor at the Harvard Business School. “It starts with leadership. There has to be support in terms of information and resources to help organizations take a look at their culture and understand how they operate.” …

Boston wants to build a successful model for other major cities to adopt, said Costello, who oversees the salary negotiation program. “Legislation alone won’t fix things,” she said. “We need to change the culture to move the needle.”

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