At the WPF May 2018 Meeting, grant recipient Laura Tew, with the American Association of University Women (AAUW) shared her sincere thanks for WPFF’s support through a recent grant. Her remarks are below. They were also featured on a recent WUNC interview that can be accessed here:

Together, the American Association of University Women and WPFF are working to address issues that uniquely affect women and girls.

One of unique issues is the gender pay gap. Data collected from employers and self-reporting by men and women in the workforce show that in North Carolina a woman is likely to be paid about 82 % of what a man is paid in the same job. African American and Hispanic women make far less. The wage gap varies. The gap is less in lower paying positions and in in fields like health care and education. The gap is greater in higher paying fields especially those in which women are underrepresented. The wage gap spans across all education levels and gets worse as we age. Data from congressional districts show that our local area wage gap is worse than the North Carolina average.

Nationally, women hold less that 30% of jobs that pay over $100,000 a year. This reality means that women have less equity to invest and lower retirement savings as we live longer. The wage gap cost women between $500,000 and a million dollars over a 30-year career.

For young women who carry a greater share of student debt upon graduation, the wage gap means that it takes longer to pay off student loans and delays their economic security.

The WPFF grant that AAUW Greensboro received last year was a game changer. It allowed us for the first time to take our AAUW National program, Work Smart Salary Negotiation Skills, into our community and broaden the gender pay gap conversation. While cities such as Washington DC and Boston are educating thousands of women and have set goals to close the gender pay gap with a number of strategies, in the southeastern United States, the City of Greensboro with funding from WPFF is virtually alone in taking the bold step to open the conversation with women, their employers, and public policy officials.

In Greensboro over the past year, we have held six workshops in collaboration with the Public Library, the Commission on the Status of Women, NC Works and the Women’s Resource Center. One of the key hurdles we faced in the training is the mistaken perception that salary negotiation starts with a woman’s current salary. While NC law does not prevent an employer from seeking that information, we spend a good amount of time in the workshops showing women how to research, benchmark, and target their salary within the range of what the job should pay in the local market. Then we teach and practice skills to deflect questions on current salary and move the conversation toward a salary target range with persuasive evidence of worth, value, and suitability for the position.

We also know that the conversation for pay equity never stops. Of the over 200 women who participated and the many more who took our surveys, most have advanced degrees, 70 % are African American and the majority are currently in the workforce.  In the workshops, women learn to establish goals, keep records and journals, have career development plans, and assert their worth in reviews of salary and benefits.

Participating women held positions from university administrators and professors to CFOs, accounting clerks, and even one undertaker. Some women drove 100 miles to learn how to start these conversations in their workplaces and communities.

Individual stories were compelling and we learned from women willing to share. There was a nutritionist who has received a significant pay raise by documenting the impact of her work on cost savings. There was a career administrator who courageously faced and overcame job reclassifications techniques which had historically upgraded positions for male applicants while downgrading positions that women held. Her efforts lead to a workplace review of job reclassification practices.

Thanks to the grant and our strategic outreach, the subject of gender pay equity has been covered by television and print media, and on this Friday, local NPR station 91.5 will report on our March 19th workshop. We have had the opportunity to engage in broader conversations with the City of Greensboro Diversity and Inclusion initiative, the Commission on the Status of Women, and Degrees Matter with whom we will be launching a program on Women in Nontraditional Careers (WINc).

So thank you again to the Women’s Professional Forum Foundation for enabling organizations to enhance and deploy programs to address needs and issues that uniquely affect women.