Conventional wisdom, the kind that climbs bestseller lists, suggests women in pay talks should be kinder, gentler, a team player.

“But the emphasis should be on the employer,” said economist Heidi Hartmann, president of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. “Women shouldn’t have to contort themselves into pretzels and go through all these social gyrations to be taken seriously.”

Boston wants to build a successful model for other major cities to adopt, said Costello, who oversees the salary negotiation program. “Legislation alone won’t fix things,” she said. “We need to change the culture to move the needle.”