Starting next month, New York City will offer women the negotiation skills they need to ask for raises, and encourage them to do so.
The two-hour workshops will be available across New York's five boroughs starting this fall. The initiative includes 10 in-person classes, with more planned for 2020. An online course is already available. The city aims to reach 10,000 women in total, a targeted effort designed to help close the gender pay gap.
Women in New York earned 88% of what men did in 2016, according to American Association of University Women research that looked at median annual earnings for full-time workers. That's better than the national average, which has hovered around 80% for nearly 20 years. Only Washington D.C. and California are closer to parity.
Equal pay and women's economic enfranchisement have become important issues for government officials and business leaders. In 2017, the city forbid employers from asking job candidates about their salary history, a phenomenon that tends to hurt women and other underpaid groups. A year later, many of the big U.S. banks voluntarily released data about their own, company-specific pay gaps.
Training women to negotiate for higher pay "is a way to work more deliberately to close the pay gap," said Kim Churches, head of the AAUW, which is funding and running the program along with the New York City Economic Development Corporation. AAUW runs negotiation workshops in cities across the country, including Boston, Kansas City, and Washington D.C. In the last year, AAUW has trained almost 100,000 women, Churches said.
Recent studies have pushed back on the stereotype that women don't ask for raises or aren't assertive when they do. In 2016, a survey from McKinsey & Co. and Lean In found that women were asking for pay increases and promotions as much as men, but were less likely to succeed -- a statistic that had Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg considering the limits of her own advice. Research published in the Harvard Business Review last year reached a similar conclusion and also found that women and men were equally confident in their negotiations.
Bias, other studies have found, is what really suppresses women's wages. When women negotiate like men, they can get punished for acting "too aggressive." That 2016 McKinsey and Lean In survey found that women who negotiate are 67% more likely to receive feedback that they are "intimidating," "too aggressive," or "bossy," compared with women who don't advocate in the same way, or with men in general.
Still, a small data set from AAUW's Boston classes found that women have benefited from the classes. A survey of 52 participants found that 48% used skills learned in the workshops to negotiate a raise either in a current job or in a new position. Most of the participants reported taking some sort of action, including small steps like "having an informal conversation with coworkers" or learning the market rate for their salaries.
Ana Ariño, EDC's chief strategy officer said this is one of many tools and resources from the City that helps "put money into women's pockets." The program is part of Women.NYC, an initiative launched last year to create more economic opportunity for women in New York City. Women.NYC also offers other workshops, grants, and runs a public art campaign working to erect more statues of women around the city.
The AAUW's Churches said the course addresses the biases that women inevitably face in interviews and performance reviews. The organization also pushes for wider change, lobbying for stronger laws and helping employers reduce bias at work.