Work Smart Aims to Train 10 Million in Salary Negotiation by 2022

December 18, 2018
Women attendees at an in-person Work Smart workshop in Washington, D.C. participate in a salary negotiation role-playing exercise.

Participants role-play to learn how to negotiate salary at the Work Smart workshop in Washington, D.C.

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The downstairs meeting room at Penn Social, a popular venue in Washington D.C., was filled to near capacity on a recent November evening. The crowd — mostly professional women in their 20s and 30s — were gathered for a night of learning and networking.

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As the light dimmed to signal the start of the presentation, all eyes focused on the facilitator at the front of the room. “How many of you have ever felt nervous talking to an employer about money?” he called from the stage.

Nearly every hand in the room shot up.

“Well tonight, we’re going to learn how to confidently and effectively negotiate salary,” he continued, as the crowd cheered with approval. And with that, the evening’s Work Smart training was off to an energetic start.

Program expands to online offering

AAUW has been ramping up its Work Smart initiative by expanding workshops in communities, cities, and states across the U.S. Now, with the recent launch of Work Smart Online, the program is poised to accelerate toward its ambitious goal of training 10 million women in salary negotiation by 2022.

Work Smart and Start Smart (the version for college students), are key components of our multipronged effort to chip away at the gender wage gap,” explains Gloria Blackwell, AAUW senior vice president of fellowships and programs. She says that, obviously, negotiating salary alone won’t put women on par with men in terms of wages. AAUW works with lawmakers and also employers to change policies, practices, and workplace cultures around pay discrimination.

Don’t leave money on the table. Attend a free AAUW Work Smart salary negotiation workshop.

“But we also know that women are less likely than men to negotiate for salaries and raises. In fact, men are four times more likely to negotiate,” Blackwell continues. “So, training people to do so is another way to move the needle on closing the gender pay gap.”

AAUW’s Work Smart curriculum is based on the best research on how to best navigate the complexity of job offers and promotions. Through presentations and interactive exercises, participants learn to research fair and equitable salaries and benefits in their fields (and geographic areas) and to clearly tout the skills and experience they bring to the table. Participants also learn the precise words and tactics to use when negotiating, all of which helps build the necessary confidence to negotiate a fair salary or promotion.

At the D.C. workshop, for example, the audience was instructed to pair up with a partner for a role-playing exercise in which a prospective employer asks a job candidate about salary history. The women had been taught to deflect the question since basing compensation on previous pay has been shown to perpetuate lower wages for women.

“What’s your current salary?” the woman playing the hiring manager asked.

“The job I have now is quite different from this one so I’d love hear more about the responsibilities involved in this role before discussing pay,” said the other, parroting the language the presenter had suggested.

“That’s just perfect,” her partner responded, breaking out of her assigned role. “It sounds really clear that you don’t want to give a number.”

Meet an AAUW Member Who’s Mobilizing a Million

AAUW member Sheri Signor portrait photo. Caucasian woman wearing a cranberry shirt smiling at the camera.

Sheri Saginor

Sheri Saginor, an AAUW member in Boston, was “blown away” after first completing the Work Smart training. “The training was extraordinary,” she said. “I loved it.”

Thanks to the program, Saginor learned how to better identify a fair payment structure for her speechwriting business — and how to more effectively negotiate with clients for her services. “I realized I was leaving money on the table,” she confessed. “This program gave me the tools to better figure out what my services are worth and the language to negotiate for a fee in a powerful and commanding way.”

Saginor was so impressed by the Work Smart program that she became an unofficial ambassador, talking about the program to all the women in a professional association she’s part of — and urging them to take it. And when she heard about AAUW’s “Members Mobilize a Million” challenge, she doubled down on those efforts.

The MMM challenge is a cornerstone of AAUW’s plan to train 10 million women in salary negotiation by 2022. The association is urging all its members, supporters and program alumnae to reach out to professional networks, colleagues, family and friends to urge them to take AAUW’s Work Smart Online course to reach AAUW’s ambitious goal.

Saginor is committed to doing her part. “I’m sharing it on my Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter,” she said. “And I’m asking everyone in my network to share it as well.”

AAUW teams up with major U.S. cities

Work Smart is a top priority for AAUW, and already tens of thousands of women across the country have taken the training. Last August, AAUW teamed up with the Women’s Foundation of Kansas and Missouri and Kansas City Mayor Sly James to provide salary negotiation training to one million women in Kansas and Missouri. Major community partnerships also include Boston; Tempe, Ariz.; San Francisco; Washington, D.C.; Long Beach, Calif., and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. These in-person trainings are run by local AAUW-certified volunteer facilitators.

Thanks to funding from the Coca-Cola Foundation, LUNA Bar, and Mooneen Lecce Giving Circle, AAUW has expanded the program and launched Work Smart Online this fall, which allows women to take the training anywhere, anytime. “We saw how successful these trainings were, but realized that for maximum impact we needed to increase access and outreach,” said Blackwell. “An online version of the course seems the ideal way to do that.”

Looking ahead, AAUW is encouraging all of its members, supporters, and friends to register for Work Smart and to take the program online. And to help reach the bold goal of getting 10 million women trained in salary negotiation by 2022, AAUW issued a “Members Mobilize a Million” challenge, asking everyone to share the course with at least 20 people in their network.

“It’s a great program, and we know that it works,” says Blackwell, citing surveys showing that women overwhelmingly reported high levels of satisfaction from the course. “Our priority now is to get as many people as possible to take the online course so we can meet our goal – and continue our overall mission of closing the gender wage gap — hopefully before 2030.”

Mary Hickey By:   |   December 18, 2018