PowerHouse

An interview with Jesse Kuntz, Program VP of AAUW Montana (Women's Foundation of Montana grantee)

March 21, 2017  |  By Erika Rasmussen

From AAUW-MT: According to AAUW research, just one year after graduation, women earn just 82 percent of what their male counterparts earn, and the gender wage gap widens over the next 10 years. In an attempt to fight this wage gap, Start Smart workshops prepare college women who are approaching the job market with the confidence, knowledge, and skills they need to negotiate salaries and benefits. Work Smart workshops provide skills to those in the workplace needing to renegotiate compensation and benefits. This AAUW-MT Grant Project supports Montana Governor Bullock’s Equal Pay for Equal Work Task Force mission to eliminate the gender pay gap in Montana. Nationally and on average, women presently earn 78 cents for every dollar that a man earns. In Montana the average is between 67 cents to 71 cents, well below the national average. The Start Smart/Work Smart workshops are grantees of the Women's Foundation of Montana. We talked with Jesse Kuntz, VP of Programs for AAUW-MT and the grant manager for the Start Smart programs, about why PowerHouse women should sign up for the program. What are the Start Smart Workshops? Start Smart salary negotiation workshops are free and open to the public, provided by AAUW with a grant from the Women's Foundation of Montana. We target women who are about to enter the workforce, graduate college, and take their first jobs. The workshops were set up to help women to learn about the wage gap, and from there we discuss how to research an appropriate wage, and talk about benefit packages and how they affect women's lives. Why do you think Montana women need these workshops? It’s a free investment in themselves. As we know women are underpaid in jobs even when they’re doing the same exact work as men, and research has shown that often times one of the contributing factors is that women don’t negotiate at the beginning like men do. So it’s just setting yourself up for the right track for success. We try to show how 10, 20, 30 years down the road this is going to affect you financially when it comes to buying a house, a car, or your lifestyle. What is a good success story you'd like to share? We had a woman here in Kalispell who took the workshop and used the skills to negotiate a wage beyond the posted salary range. People come out of the workshop feeling more confident in their abilities to negotiate and definitely have more knowledge on the subject. What are the communities in which these workshops are being offered? We have workshops in Billings, Butte, Great Falls, Helena, Havre, Kalispell, and Missoula. How many people are currently registered? Last I checked, we had well over 75 women registered for the two workshops that have registration open. We had over 100 people who attended last year, and we’re hoping to do better than that this year. Where can we find more information? To register for a workshop or see when registration for a workshop is open in your area, check out AAUW-MT onlin: http://aauw-mt.aauw.net/