On Closing the Gender Pay Gap

April 4, 2017 News
Sabrina Antoine

One Workshop at a Time

The statistics around pay inequality are easy to find.

We know that women fresh out of college earn less than their male counterparts working in similar fields. And we know that, as they age, the gap between men and women grows — with full-time working women in Boston earning only 77 cents for every dollar their male colleagues make. But knowing these statistics isn’t the same as doing something about them.

For Sabrina Antoine, it was about recognizing her own value.

“I loved working with nonprofits and I loved my organization,” Sabrina said, “But I knew that I needed a promotion in order to make staying there feasible. A part of me kept thinking that someone would eventually recognize that I was doing good work and would hand me a promotion, but it wasn’t happening. And I was afraid that if I asked for it people would think I was being greedy. It was a tough position to be in.”

Like so many other women, Sabrina kept hoping that by keeping her head down and focusing on her work she would eventually be recognized and rewarded accordingly. “But when I picked my head up and looked around I realized nobody was really paying any attention to my accomplishments.” No one was going to hand Sabrina the promotion she deserved, so she had to become her own advocate.

And then she saw the e-mail advertising the Mayor’s salary negotiation workshops.

The Mayor’s Office for the Advancement of Women, in partnership with The American Association of University Women, has been hosting workshops aimed at helping women negotiate higher salaries at work for more than for the last 18 months. So far more than 3,000 women have attended, including Sabrina, who attended a weekend workshop at the Mattapan Library in the Fall of 2015.

“I didn’t really know what to expect when I showed up,” Sabrina said.

Over the course of the weekend workshop, Sabrina and the dozens of other women who attended were taught the best strategies for figuring out their prefered salary range, how to research the average pay for the positions they were seeking, and how to package themselves and their accomplishments to their bosses and the importance of practicing negotiations in everyday life. They were also shown statistics about the severity of the pay gap between men and women.

Sabrina left the workshop feeling empowered. “It was exactly what I needed,” Sabrina says with a laugh.

“I walked out of that workshop and told myself, ‘Sabrina, it’s time. You have no excuses now!’”

Sabrina decided not only to ask for a raise, but to apply for a new role that had just opened up at the same company. And thanks to the strategies she’d learned in the negotiation workshop, she was offered the job at the end of the second interview. However, the salary for this new position was still lower than her ideal.

“When the hiring manager told me the salary, I did exactly what they said in the workshop. I listened to what he had said about the job and I reiterated to him how excited I was for the opportunity. Then I very calmly explained that, based on my research, the salary for this role should be in a certain range. He was not expecting to negotiate about the salary and told me he would get back to me and the meeting ended.”

To say that Sabrina was nervous would be an understatement.

“My heart was literally in my pelvis. I was sweating! When he said he would get back to me and didn’t give me a time frame I was so anxious. What did this mean?” But she didn’t need to be nervous. Her boss called her back with a counter offer less than three hours later and she accepted.

Her advice to other women is simple — believe in yourself and your value.

“Because of the workshops, I was so confident in that first meeting and that impression lingered in the manager’s mind. I knew what my value was and what I was bringing to the role. I was proud of the work I had already done and I knew what I could bring to the company.”

Sabrina believes in this program so much that she now volunteers as a facilitator for it.

“I tell people about this experience all the time. We talk about it over drinks with my girlfriends. I try and make it an everyday conversation, and to ask the same questions that the workshop asked me.”

For women, there’s always this feeling of waiting for the right opportunity. But can you identify that?”