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4 Ways Boston's New Program Could Fix the Gender Wage Gap

While recent data has shown that the gender wage gap isn’t as wide as we thought it was, there is still a gap. In Boston, for example, women make 83 cents for each dollar a man makes and in an effort to close that gap, the city is attempting a new, different method. Here are four ways this new program could actually work.

Gender Wage Gap

(Photo Credit: Victor1558/Flickr)

Although Boston’s gender wage gap is smaller than the average wage gap of 77 cents earned by a woman versus $1.00 earned by a man, the city (via former Mayor Thomas Menino) seems to be the first to take on the issue on their own through an initiative called “100% Talent: The Boston Women’s Compact.” This method requires businesses to sign a pledge and agree to opening their books and self-assess their wage data. The companies then choose three strategies from a list of 33 suggestions, and then every two years, shares their data anonymously with a third party who compiles it for the city, to see how they have done.

Here are some of the causes for the gender wage gap, according to Payscale data, along with how the various interventions proposed by the City of Boston could actually help further shrink or close the gap.

1. More Women in Higher Paying Jobs

One of the reasons for the gender wage gap may be that women are typically employed in lower paying positions that are considered to have a “large societal benefit, but small monetary benefit.” According to Boston’s report, women dominate or have equal representation in only three of the top 10 highest paid occupations -- education, healthcare practitioners and technicians, and life, physical, and social sciences. Suggestions for addressing this include supporting initiatives that expose young girls to STEM fields, evaluating female perceptions of the industry, and showcasing successful women entrepreneurs.

2. Improving Negotiations

The idea that women just don’t negotiate their salaries or ask to be paid what they are worth is believed to be one of the main causes of the gender wage gap. If men are truly more inclined to ask for higher pay more often than women, Boston’s initiative suggests addressing that through sponsoring negotiation training for high school students, women in college, and female professionals, and conducting compensation evaluations for employees regularly.

3. Job Flexibility

Women are also paid less or take lower paying jobs because of what is referred to as the “motherhood penalty.” In Boston’s report, working mothers are viewed as lower valued employees and are underpaid relative to fathers and non-mothers. Suggestions given for tackling the “motherhood penalty” include evaluating “causes of attrition among women, including mothers, and non-mothers,” onsite or subsidized child care, and offering paid family leave.

4. Gender Bias

Even after eliminating educational, occupational, and work experiences, the Women’s Workforce Council says that women still earn less than men. Plans to address outright gender bias in the workplace include not only methods such as gender-blind application processes, but also enlisting diverse evaluators in hiring and evaluating starting salaries for new hires as well.

There are already 50 businesses participating in the program, including some of the biggest employers in Boston, such as the Boston Medical Center and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. And while it is too soon to know for sure if the new program will be successful in closing the gender wage gap, it does appear as though Boston may be on the right path.

Tell Us What You Think

What do you think is the biggest cause of the gender wage gap? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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