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Efforts To Close The Gender Pay Gap In Massachusetts

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The Massachusetts Equal Pay Act goes into effect tomorrow, July 1. The updated law has been called one of the strongest in the country. It's aimed at closing the pay gap between men and women. Among its provisions - employers can no longer ask a job applicant about how much they made at their previous job. The city of Boston, in particular, has embraced efforts to help women be paid equal to that of men for similar work. The mayor of Boston, Martin Walsh, joins us. Mr. Mayor, thanks so much for being with us.

MARTIN WALSH: You're welcome. Thank you having me.

SIMON: Why is preventing employers asking about salary history a key here?

WALSH: Well, I think it allows the employer to actually gauge the salary on a woman's ability and resume rather than compare it to what they might have gotten at another job. Generally, men won't ask a man what they made in their previous job when they're basing a salary. And I think that that's how I'd look at it.

SIMON: Well, let's ask about something else the city has been doing, workshops, to try and train thousands of women, I gather, in salary negotiation techniques.

WALSH: Yeah. Over the last three years here in Boston, 7,000 women have been trained in salary negotiation to date. Ninety percent of women took immediate action following the workshop. And this program, we're seeing, is fostering a culture shift in the city of Boston.

SIMON: Any tips you can share for people who are listening?

WALSH: It really is about an understanding of don't be intimidated to push back on a salary. You know, when somebody offers you a job and a salary, that doesn't mean necessarily all the time that it's the end of the story. And oftentimes, women, in just looking at studies, won't push the envelope, figuring it might cost them their job. But, actually, having different tips on how to do it will be really - is really helpful - understanding to write down their skills and accomplishments and also have - practice conversations with colleagues about fair pay. Like you prepare for an interview, prepare for the job, I should say.

SIMON: The pay gap can be larger for women of color. Any special plans to try and address that?

WALSH: Absolutely. Women on average earn 76 cents on the dollar of every man. That's across the board. And then when you look at white women compared to the man's dollar, it's 75 cents; Asian women - 71 cents to the dollar; black or African-American women - 52 cents to the dollar; and Hispanic or Latina women - 49 cents compared the man's dollar. So there really is a tremendous wage gap there. Another thing that we've worked on - we're getting groups of 225 companies, some of the largest companies in Boston, they're anonymously providing data so we can see where wage trends are happening. And what happens is these companies that, as they pull this data together, they realize that within their own companies that there's a wage gap. And we'll work with companies on how to close those gaps.

SIMON: What would it achieve for Boston to be able to have pay equity between men and women?

WALSH: Well, I think the success of this would be to eliminate the wage gap so that future generations of women don't have to go - continue to go through the same thing. I commend the legislature for passing legislation. And when I was a legislator, I think we passed two pieces of legislation, but that wage gap didn't get smaller. That wage gap got larger. This last piece of legislation that was passed has a lot more teeth in it, along with training. So I would urge cities and towns and actually companies to look at some of the work that we've done in our office of women advancement to help us continue to fight and push on these efforts of closing the wage gap.

SIMON: Mayor Martin Walsh of Boston, thanks so much.

WALSH: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.