Preparing the Next Generation
According to Forbes, most professional women in the workplace are uncomfortable with negotiating a higher salary. Some, in fact, are so anxious with the process that they skip it entirely. However, Skyla Seamans '13 and Carrisa Sacherski '15 are doing something to change that: They are teaching local girls to how to negotiate.
Last Friday, the two went to Girls Inc. at the Gladys Allen Brigham Community Center in Pittsfield to present a workshop on negotiation. The project was part of a series of efforts directed toward the topic of pay equity for women, funded by the American Association of University Women's (AAUW) Campus Action Project (CAP).
According to Seamans (pictured above, on the right), girls in today's society are socialized to be passive and compliant while men are taught to be the aggressors.
"It is important to teach girls at a young age that their voices matter and that they have the ability and right to ask for what they want," Seamans said. "When women enter the work force, too many of them accept what they are offered without standing up for what they deserve. This is partly why there is still a wage gap, where the average white woman earns 77 cents compared to her white male counterpart, who earns a dollar. The wage gap grows for women of color."
For Sacherski (above, left), an alumna of Girls Inc. in her hometown of Lynn, Mass., the opportunity to return to that environment and work with the girls was both "amazing and rewarding."
"At first, the girls were a little hesitant, but once we started moving forward with the activities they were ready to participate and learn," Sacherski said.
According to Seamans, the girls were broken up into two groups. Each group composed a story about negotiation, such as how two friends might settle a disagreement about who would get the last cookie.
"We had them write three different endings, where one of them was a win-win for both girls involved in the story. Then we discussed the different endings and the importance of making sure both sides got what they wanted and deserved," Seamans said.
According to OjaeMichal Beale of MCLA's Women's Center, who is overseeing the project, the College wanted to work with community-based organizations that serve girls to raise awareness around the issue of the gender pay gap, negotiation skills and to empower them with the awareness that they have agency.
"Because girls don't learn at an early age that they have agency in the negotiation process, they tend to carry that socialization into their adult lives," Beale said. "The idea is, if they become more comfortable across their lifespan, by the time they're sitting in front of a potential employer for a first job, they're going to want to be part of the process of negotiating their salary."
While some girls at first had no idea what negotiation was, by the end of the workshop all of them were raising their hands to define the concept and share their ideas about how everyone in the stories they wrote could be happy.
"I feel like this workshop helped the girls realize that negotiation is a part of their everyday lives," said Seamans.
"They can use the skills they learned in the workshop in so many different ways, from persuading their parents to buy them something or showing their friends why playing a certain game would be beneficial to everyone. Hopefully, our workshop was the groundwork they needed to teach them that negotiation is a skill, and one they will certainly need in the future."