Shrink the Gap

Salary negotiation workshops for high school girls to teach and empower them to fight the pervasive gender wage gap.

Photo of Madeline Ley
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Website or social media url(s) (optional):

Instagram: @shrinkthegap

Date You Started Your Project Started

August 2019

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Start-Up (first few activities have happened)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

In the United States, women generally earn 80 cents on the dollar compared to white men, and it is even worse for women of color. According to Financial Women's Association, the wage gap would cause women to lose nearly $530,000 over her lifetime. I'm solving a problem that is rooted in discrimination and injustice. Unfortunately, I cannot solve the injustice, but most importantly, I can empower young women to fight against it.

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Women just gained their right to vote in 1920, and in 1945, Congress introduced the Women’s Equal Pay Act, which would have made it illegal to pay women less than men for work of “comparable quality and quantity". That failed to pass. To this day, women still earn 80 cents on the dollar compared to men. Unfortunately, it is evident that we cannot rely on our leaders to properly represent working women and all women, so I decided to take matters to my own hands. Providing salary negotiation workshops to high school girls will teach them the process of negotiation and will help them feel more confident in a job interview. The gender wage gap starts in the interview room when women are speaking about their salaries with their employers. If women know how to navigate through an interview or salary conversation properly, the chances of receiving an unfair salary will be much less.

3. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

Throughout my life, I have been surrounded by incredibly strong, successful, and intelligent women, who have always stressed the importance of advocating for oneself. And as I grew up, I began to understand why advocating is a necessary tool to be a successful woman. Since I began to understand the concept of discrimination, I’ve seen a lot of inequality in our society. I’ve watched a lot of news and heard a lot of stories of women being treated in unfair ways around the world. The #MeToo movement came to new prominence in 2017, where women have come forward detailing the harassment they face in the workplace perpetrated by high profile men. And then I constantly hear about women being paid far less than men when they are just as qualified and do the same amount of work. Hearing all of the prejudice and unfair treatment that women face angers me. This is why I started my project.

4. Selfie Elevator Pitch: Include 1-minute video that answers the following “I am stepping up to make change because...”

5. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

I am including a written testimony by one of my friends, Sydney Gustinger, who attended one of my workshops: "For me personally, the salary negotiation workshop was an awakening that I definitely needed in order to pursue a career in the work force. Madeline presented astonishing information regarding wage disparities between men and women that I was formerly unaware of. Subsequently, she explained many different negotiation techniques to ensure that we have the skills to determine an equitable salary for a woman seeking any profession." Every time a young woman participates in one of my workshops, she leaves it learning something she did not know about before. The only way we can empower young women to fight to close the wage gap is to educate, advocate, and empower them. My project achieves that and more.

6. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

Most people focus on an older generation of women, with at least a few years of working experience. My project emphasizes the importance of tackling pay disparities before they start by teaching teenage girls the process of negotiation and informing them of some of the policies that are in place that protect them in the workplace. I do not know of any schools in Miami that dedicate a class to teaching young women about the pay gap and how to fight it using negotiation skills. Young women should be taught about the possible injustice they will face in the workplace. Shrink the Gap is the first.

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

So far, I have started an instagram account called @shrinkthegap and have led two salary negotiation workshops to about 35 young women. One workshop took place at my school, Cushman High School, and one of them took place at the Gwen Cherry Youth Center in Liberty City to lower income 12-14 year old girls. Earlier in the school year, I gave a presentation about the history of the gender wage gap to my entire school, including the faculty. This summer, I was also featured in a news video by Miami Montage News Organization with the University of Miami where I spoke about my project and pay inequity.

8. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

Next year, I want to lead salary negotiation workshops to a larger audience of young women in public schools. I have made a partnership with the Social Impact Movement, a non profit organization based in Miami, Florida who will help connect me with people who have expertise in gender and wage inequality, as well as assist me in making connections with schools. With the help of funding by T-Mobile and Ashoka, I want to improve my informational packets that I hand out during my workshop, and find an expert who is able to help me structure my workshop to make it as effective as possible.

9. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you?

  • Research

10. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Friend support
  • Family support
  • Mentors/advisors

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others

Evaluation results

3 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 0%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 33.3%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 66.7%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. - 0%

2. Changemaker Quality

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 33.3%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 33.3%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 33.3%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

3. Creativity

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 33.3%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 0%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 33.3%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 33.3%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

4. Commitment

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 50%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 100%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

5. Connection

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 66.7%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 0%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 33.3%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer or No Connection - 0%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Peggy Liang

Hey Madeline, I think wage negotiations for high school ladies is an incredible thing to offer. I think another audience to also target are high school ladies who are considering a job or internship during their high school. While it's great for high schoolers to understand this information now, what's a great way for them to put this into practice? Maybe target high school ladies who are already looking for jobs or internships. :) All the best to your future!!

Photo of Madeline Ley

Peggy Liang Hey Peggy! That sounds like a great idea. Some of the young women in my workshops are in internships and are starting to apply for jobs. It’s important to start early so by the time they are applying for jobs they will be ready!

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