Raising Prospect of Raises | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Raising Prospect of Raises

Pittsburgh women will soon get a new solution to an old problem -- the gender wage gap. Women still make 70 cents for every dollar earned by men in comparable professions, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics; in response, the local Women and Girls Foundation is launching a new program, Catapult, to train men and women to be "negotiation coaches." Their goal: to prepare women to ask for more money or better benefits at work.

"It's not so much that men and women negotiate differently; it's that women negotiate less," says Carnegie Mellon University Professor Linda Babcock, whose lengthy research on negotiation styles is the subject of her forthcoming book, Asking for It: How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get What They Really Want.

Because of differences in how boys and girls are brought up, she says, men see more opportunities to bargain. Successful negotiation hinges on not only identifying opportunities to haggle, but also on being armed with information about what other workers in similar positions earn. Catapult hopes both to encourage more negotiation by women, and to arm them with information for the battle.

Catapult kicks off Nov. 11 with an all-day series of workshops, presentations and role-playing. Future coaches will learn to help women identify opportunities to go for more money -- and to not fear being seen as aggressive or pushy. Coaches will learn to help women strategize about asking for a raise, and teach women to prepare for different reactions from supervisors -- instructing them, for instance, on how to use an initial "no" as a bargaining tool.

Once out in the field, the coaches will be able to provide five hours of role-playing and research assistance to women who want the service. (Coaching will be free to women making less than $30,000, sliding fees will be assessed for women who already make more.)

Heather Arnet, executive director of the foundation, says it has pushed corporations to do their part in addressing the wage gap. But, she says, "We also need to talk to women about what they can do." It's important for women to realize that asking for more money will never take a job offer off the table, she concludes: "The worst-case scenario is that you'll ask and they'll say no."

To register: 412-434-4883.

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