Welcome to Local Leaders of Boston featuring Alexandra Howley - Program Manager AAUW Work Smart in Boston. Our goal is to highlight local leaders and influencers who are making a positive impact on our Top Rep Boston community.

Alexandra Howley - Program Manager


So, Alex, what is AAUW Work Smart in Boston?

Work Smart is a program of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) that provides women the tools for successful salary negotiation.

In 2015, AAUW partnered with Mayor Walsh through the Mayor’s Office of Women’s Advancement to pilot ‘Work Smart in Boston’ as a large- scale grassroots initiative to provide free salary negotiation workshops to women that live and work throughout the city.


How does this program fit into the bigger picture….?

The Mayor’s Office of Women’s Advancement is doing some really forward-thinking work to address the wage gap. They have deployed a multi-pronged approach that addresses both policy and culture. The Boston model focuses on three categories; Employers (culture & policy), Individuals (culture), and Legislation (policy). You can read more about their work here.

Work Smart in Boston is one of the ways that the city is supporting individuals. Educating women directly in salary negotiation is a really innovative new approach for cities and states. The MA Treasurer’s Office also recently announced the expansion of these workshops throughout the state. In addressing solutions to the gender-based salary gap, Evelyn Murphy, the former lieutenant governor of Massachusetts and co-chair of the Boston Women’s Workforce Council argues that these issues can not be addressed through legislation alone.  “It’s actions by all of us. Women have to act for employers to react. Employers have to act to make this change.”


What is your new role there?

I recently took over as the Program Manager for the AAUW Work Smart in Boston program, working out of the Mayor’s Office of Women’s Advancement. My key focus since joining this amazing team has been to bring this program to scale. We have built a great foundation these first two years, and now we are increasing the volume of workshops and expanding to more neighborhoods across Boston.

I am also investing a great deal of energy into increasing awareness and accessibility for more women to be able to take advantage of these trainings. We have set really high goals for this program and my job is to do everything we can to get us there.


Can you tell us about some of your goals for the program?

Our primary goal set by Mayor Walsh & AAUW in 2015 is to train 85,000 women living and working in Boston by 2021. To help break that down, 85,000 is half of Boston’s working women.

In the first two years, we’ve held more than 250 workshops and trained over 6,000 women. Coming from General Assembly (a growing education company), it has been really fun applying some of the strategies we deployed scaling in the startup space to this work with the city. With the continued support from the Boston community, I am confident that we will reach this goal.  

The other underlying goal of this program is to create a model for other cities and states to support women and increase pay equity.


Who should be utilizing these services?

The program is designed for anyone that identifies as a woman, but we do welcome men. We recognize that men of color and other groups also experience a wage gap, so we try to be as inclusive as possible. Knowing how to negotiate for yourself and feeling empowered to do so is a necessary life skill.

The Boston Women's Workforce Council, a public-private partnership between Mayor Walsh and the Greater Boston business community, released a new report in January 2018, which dug into the Greater Boston area gender wage gap. The model uses employer-reported wage data to measure the localized wage gap, a first-in-the-nation approach, which is seen to be more accurate than the commonly referenced analyses that use U.S. Census data.The sample that represented 16% of the city’s workforce revealed that women working full-time in the Boston area are paid, on average, $0.76 to a white male's $1.00. Even worse, black women are making $0.52 and Latina women $0.49.

The two-hour workshop is broken down into the following four key pieces to help guide participants through the process:

  1. Understanding the gender wage gap, including its long-term consequences

  2. How to identify and articulate your personal value

  3. How to conduct objective market research to benchmark a target salary and benefits

  4. How to develop an arsenal of persuasive responses and other negotiation strategies, including how to get a raise or promotion

These workshops are FREE and we’re hosting them in locations across all 23 of Boston’s neighborhoods!

If you would like to register to attend a workshop, visit boston.gov/women

If you want to get involved:

Sign up to become a workshop facilitator, visit salary.aauw.org/facilitate  

(we are always looking for more women to get involved)

Or if you have the space to host a workshop, contact Alex at Howleya@aauw.org


About the American Association of University Women

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) is a national nonprofit committed to advancing equity for women through advocacy, education, and research and has been around since 1881.