Women find empowerment, new skills in city-sponsored salary negotiation workshop series

September 4, 2017

Boston – A qualitative case study of working women who took part in salary negotiation workshops offered by the Mayor’s Office of Women’s Advancement in partnership with the American Association of University Women (AAUW) finds many participants used their training to improve their own salary and advance gender equality in the workforce. Researchers from the McCormack Graduate School’s Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts Boston cited this, among other findings in a report released today at the new Edgerley Center for Civic Leadership at the Boston Foundation.

The report, Gaining Ground on Equal Pay: Empowering Boston’s Women Through Salary Negotiation Workshops, is based on in-depth interviews with some of the nearly 1,800 women who attended the first year of the AAUW Work Smart in Boston workshop program. The workshops, based on the Work Smart and Smart Start curricula developed by former Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Evelyn Murphy, are designed to empower women to negotiate higher pay and reduce the gender wage gap, giving them research tools, communications skills and strategies to negotiate their salaries with greater knowledge and confidence.

Researchers interviewed more than 50 women who took part in workshops between September 2015 and September 2016, to learn how the workshops impacted their knowledge about the causes and persistence of the gender-based wage gap and how to apply the knowledge gained in their own salary negotiations.

“The City of Boston can only thrive when men and women have an equal playing field, and these workshops are one way to provide women with the tools and information they need to advocate more effectively,” said Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh. “When we combine this with our efforts to address pay equity with businesses and the legislation we passed last session, we create a coordinated top-down, bottom-up effort to close the wage gap.”

The interviewers found 87% of the women who completed the workshops took action by identifying target salaries, and nearly half either negotiated increased compensation in their current job or obtained a competitive salary for a new job – but the impact reached well beyond salary negotiation.

“We found that women who took part in these workshops engaged in actions that reached far beyond the metric of a pay increase,” said Ann Bookman, Director of the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy at UMass Boston, which produced the report. “For example, they identified and utilized online resources; benchmarked the correct compensation level for various positions; started conversations about equal pay with their supervisors and co-workers – and probably most important, they became advocates on their own behalf.”

Researchers note the workshops also had a ripple effect – many of the women in the workshop said they shared the lessons they learned with others in their workplaces and in their social networks including family, friends, and colleagues.

“These workshops have the potential to shift the dialogue about wage and gender far beyond any one conference room or one meeting hall to the overall civic dialogue of the city,” said Paul S. Grogan, President and CEO of the Boston Foundation. “As the lessons of these workshops spread across neighborhoods and generations, we begin to create transformative momentum that could close the gender wage gap once and for all.”

While the research highlighted how extensively workshop participants used the lessons they learned, it also provided valuable feedback for improving the workshop content. For example, the interviews highlighted participants’ desire for post-workshop activities such as networking with peers and having mentors to help them hone their skills. Many women have now become part of a growing movement that extends far beyond Boston to increase pay equity.

The AAUW Work Smart in Boston workshops continue this fall as part of a 5-year investment by Mayor Walsh and the City of Boston. The Boston Foundation provided seed funding for the workshops, as well as financial and editorial support for the qualitative research by UMass Boston. To learn more about upcoming workshops, interested women can go to boston.gov/women.


Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh created the Mayor’s Office of Women’s Advancement in June of 2014 to prioritize advocating for equal opportunity for women and girls in all arenas of the City of Boston. The Mayor’s Office of Women’s Advancement creates specific programming and opportunities that support three priority areas: economic equity, health and safety, and data and research. In 2015, Mayor Walsh, the Office of Women’s Advancement, and the American Association of University Women (AAUW) launched a large-scale grassroots initiative called Work Smart in Boston to train and empower 85,000 women by 2021 to confidently and successfully evaluate, articulate, and negotiate their worth in the job market. The initiative is aligned with Mayor Walsh’s commitment to strategically closing the gender wage gap in Boston. To learn more about the partnership, visit salary.aauw.org/boston. If you are interested in becoming a facilitator or hosting a workshop, email bostonwomen@boston.gov.

The Boston Foundation, Greater Boston’s community foundation, is one of the largest community foundations in the nation, with net assets of some $1 billion. In 2016, the Foundation and its donors paid $100 million in grants to nonprofit organizations and received gifts of more than $107 million. The Foundation is proud to be a partner in philanthropy, with more than 1,000 separate charitable funds established by donors either for the general benefit of the community or for special purposes. The Boston Foundation also serves as a major civic leader, think tank and advocacy organization, commissioning research into the most critical issues of our time and helping to shape public policy designed to advance opportunity for everyone in Greater Boston. The Philanthropic Initiative (TPI), a distinct operating unit of the Foundation, designs and implements customized philanthropic strategies for families, foundations and corporations both here and around the globe. For more information about the Boston Foundation or TPI, visit tbf.org or call 617.338.1700.

Celebrating over twenty years of contributions to advancing women’s leadership and participation in public life, UMass Boston’s Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy at the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, promotes and strengthens diverse forms of women’s public leadership. Through its innovative educational programs, action-oriented research, and public forums, it works to ensure that the voices, talents, and experiences of all women are valued and included in the policy and political processes. In partnership with nonprofit organizations, private companies, and government at all levels, the center works to strengthen democratic values in public life and build a prosperous economy that increases access and opportunity for all. All center initiatives and research explore the impact of gender, race/ethnicity, and class on policy making and politics.