Boston is serious about closing the pay gap. And city officials estimate it'll take 85,000 women to do it.

The pay gap, if you haven't heard the term before, is shorthand for the fact that women earn 79 cents for every dollar earned by a man.

There are, of course, a ton of problems and qualifications related to that particular number. It doesn't account for the fact that men and women choose different fields, and men often choose more lucrative ones. Women are more likely to take time out of their careers, or to step off the fast track, to care for someone else. Nonetheless, a pay gap exists within every profession, and even for recent college graduates who enter the same field, there's a pay gap of seven percent. So the problem is real, even if the exact number is open to debate.

For Boston, this presents a particular problem. The population of Boston is 52 percent female. Fifty-four percent of those women are people of color, who face their own pay gap. "When you have the majority of your city being given less opportunities, that hurts the economy, it hurts neighborhoods, and it hurts families," says Megan Costello, the executive director of the mayor's office for women's advancement for Boston.

Costello's office is taking a number of approaches to solving the problem. The city is supporting pay transparency legislation at the state level. It's running a program for employers, of which about 60 have signed on so far, called 100% Talent, to help them uncover gaps in pay and in opportunity, and to make changes where necessary.

But perhaps the most audacious part of the city's plan is to train 85,000 women--that's half the city's adult women--to improve their negotiation skills. They're doing it through dozens of workshops held in community centers, libraries, YMCA's, and municipal buildings, where anywhere from 40 to 60 women (and sometimes a few men) work their way through a two-hour curriculum that teaches them how to figure out how much they should be paid, how to make their case to an employer, and how to gracefully exit a negotiation that might not be going well.

"These tools give women a lot more confidence," says Costello. "We tell them this is not going to work every single time. This is about having an ongoing conversation about your worth and what you bring to the table. Don't compare your salary to your colleagues or say you need it for your family. Base it on your value to the company."

Why Negotiation Is Different for Women

Women face a particularly tricky set of hurdles when it comes to negotiation. While men who negotiate are seen as go-getters, women who negotiate are seen as difficult and less likeable.

In her book, Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg recommends that women address this explicitly. When she was negotiating with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to become the COO of Facebook, Sandberg says, she stressed that this was absolutely the only time they would be on opposite sides of the table. Another study suggests that during negotiations, women should emphasize their warmth and inclusiveness, and note how their team's success is related to their own.

The curriculum used by the city of Boston takes these issues into account, even though it's hard to measure the psychic load of having to deal with them at all. "We should not imitate what men do at the negotiation table," says Costello.

The curriculum used in the workshops was developed by the American Association of University Women, which is already teaching a similar workshop at college campuses nationwide. "There's a full section that talks about pay equity, and what is the larger impact that the gender pay gap has on our society, our economy, our families," says Deepti Gudipati, vice president of member leadership programs for the AAUW, who is working with the city to roll out the program.

Both Gudipati and Costello admit that training 85,000 women is, at the very least, an ambitious goal. But as Costello puts it: "We do want to have a dramatic impact."