It doesn't matter if you're a surgeon, a banker or a fisherman —
if you're a woman in the United States, you're probably paid less than a
man. with federal laws or the feminist movement.
But now, Boston thinks it has a solution to completely erase the gender wage gap.
On average, women across the country are paid a man earns. The discrepancy is not as wide in Boston, where a typical woman makes a man makes.
say that number needs to be adjusted for factors like career choice and
motherhood, and then it'll rise to 91 cents. But even then, for Boston
Mayor Thomas Menino, 9 cents is still 9 cents too much.
work as hard; they're smart. Just because they're a woman they get
discriminated against?" he says. "We're going to end that discrimination
Menino is a straight-talking, no-nonsense kind of man. He's , but he's been mayor for 20 years. So when he says things need to change, people here listen.
Simmons College touts itself as the school with the top MBA program for
women. But even the students who attend this school say they've felt
the stings of unequal pay in the past.
"I have actually
experienced a situation where my compensation wasn't comparable to a
male counterpart," Estelle Archibold says. "It was at least $20,000
worth of a gap, which is a significant quality of life issue."
Archibold was working for a consulting company then. She says she asked for more money and got it — but it wasn't easy.
like Archibold are a driving force in Boston's economy, partly because
of sheer demographics: The city is home to the highest proportion of
young, educated women in the country.
"When we started to think
about closing the wage gap, we thought about it from the beginning as a
business initiative," says Cathy Minehan, dean of Simmons business
school and the woman leading the city's initiative.
heads a citywide council that has persuaded more than 40 businesses to
sign a pledge to close the wage gap. By the end of the year, it expects
to have 50 companies onboard. Some are small, but others are regional
powerhouses, like Partners HealthCare, the biggest private employer in
Companies that sign the pledge agree to take three
concrete steps. The most crucial step, Minehan says, is the first:
Companies open their books and assess their own wage data.
people reject the idea that we have an issue until they actually see
their data," she says. "And then they say to themselves, 'Huh?' "
they'll pick three strategies to improve pay equity. There's a list of
suggestions recommended by the council, and companies choose what they
like. Ideas include increasing wage transparency, actively recruiting
women to executive-level positions, and offering subsidized childcare.
And then, finally, businesses agree to share their wage data anonymously every two years so the city can measure progress.
catch is that none of this is actually required — it's all voluntary.
Minehan argues that that's the plan's strength. "We wanted this to be
something that businesses felt strongly was in their best interest."
But will this approach be enough to disrupt the old boys' club?
Donovan, who started a company called Equal Pay Negotiations, says
there are systemic hiring practices that discriminate against women.
have to get rid of salary history — it's on every application. All it
does is set us up for failure," she says, "because if you're a woman,
you're going to have a lower salary history than, excuse me, but the
white men. They get the premium."
A lot of women also say they
need to learn to advocate for themselves — that the onus to fix this
problem can't rest solely with the employer.
But whether or not
the idea gains traction, just the fact that Boston has made pay equity a
priority is enough of a selling point for grad student Meghan Williams.
"I want to live in a city that values me as much as it values its men."