When gender roles are assigned

Megan Costello is used to guiding a room full of women through the art of salary negotiation. It's for women who believe they're underpaid and undervalued.

"Women, over the course of their lifetime of their careers, make about $1 million less than their male counterparts. I don't know about you, but I want my million dollars. There's a wage gap that exists at every level and every workplace."

Costello wants women to start asking for more.

"I promise you, the men are asking and it's important we do the same."

On average, women are paid 79-cents for every dollar a man makes. So, while a man may earn $60,000/year, a woman in the same position, doing the same work earns around $47,000.

For some minorities, it's even worse. Black women are paid 63-cents and Latinas, just 54-cents for every dollar a white man makes.

It's an issue echoing around the 2016 campaign trail and yet, the problem remains. It's why Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is partnering with the American Association of University Women to offer free salary negotiation classes to women.

"How do they push back and push back without fear of repercussions, but also, push back in a way that men often do."

They've been showing up to learn how to drive a hard bargain.

"I realized, I didn't have the negotiation skills for how to do a salary negotiation. It felt like a deficit I could address. I had no idea that you can actually go 20% above your target when you are negotiating your salary, so that's 100% something I'm going to use going forward."

Costello, who works for the mayor, oversees the program.

"We know that when women are paid equally, it helps with retention. It helps with a happier work force which increases productivity."

But, Harvard Business School Professor Robin Ely isn't so sure teaching women to negotiate will actually make a difference.

"Why wouldn't these classes move the needle?"

"It's not clear to me that the gender wage gap is primarily a function of women's lack of prosperity or lack of skill to negotiate. When it's clear to a person entering a job what the salary range for that job is, which we would know if there were pay transparency, women would negotiate just as often and just as well as men."

So, while salary talks may stall, Costello says negotiate everything else.

"Can you get another week's vacation? Can you get a better job title? You know, can you get free parking? In Boston, that would be huge. You know, so think outside the box, beyond just your salary number."

"Because that free parking could actually be a raise when you sit down and do the math."

"Absolutely. That can be several thousand dollars a year in Boston."

Laura Bleill, with Chambana Moms, joins us.


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