Gender-based wage gaps persist in every state, but a new law recently passed in Massachusetts will take aim at some of the underlying workplace policies that keep these gaps in place.
True workplace gender equity benefits both men and women on both the employer and employee sides of the table. But even in the 21st century, this goal remains elusive. One of the stickiest areas of workplace equality is also the most fundamental, underlying all other aspects of advancement: salary.
In most states, wage gaps between male and female employees persist, and some employers feel little motivation to alleviate them. But a recently signed law in Massachusetts indicates that changes are in the works, even if these changes are happening slowly. The new law, which will take effect in July of 2018, forbids employers from asking candidates to disclose their salary history before offering them a position. The law also forbids employers from retaliating against employees who discuss their salaries among themselves.
Both moves protect employees and job applicants from exploitation by employers, and when workers are protected, pay gaps and salary inequities are harder to sustain.
What Does the New Law Mean for Women?
Gender-based wage gaps mean that a woman may receive a lower salary than a man while holding the same position for the same company. This can result in significant financial harm if a woman chooses to take time off to have children and then returns to the workforce. But the damage often becomes magnified when future employers make salary offers based on the candidate’s previous salary history rather than the value the company places on the position. Over the years, a small pay gap can become large and lasting, and in most cases, women who are underpaid from the minute they enter the workforce don’t catch up before retirement.
This new law places the salary focus on the job itself – not on the candidate. Instead of basing a candidate’s salary on their salary history, employers are required to set a salary for what they think the position is worth before anyone is hired. This benefits women in that they are no longer paid based on what they made in the past, which is especially helpful if they were out of the workforce for a year a two.
General Salary Tactics
Even if you don’t live in Massachusetts, there are steps you can take to protect yourself from exploitation and pay inequity. Keep in mind that many employers don’t recognize that gender equality in the workplace benefits everyone—including the company and its bottom line– and some employers defend the status quo even when it works against their own interests. As you search for work and engage in salary negotiations, be ready to take a stand and fight for the rate and benefits that you deserve.
Don’t share all of your cards.
Outside of Massachusetts, your employers are not forbidden from asking you about your salary history, but by no means are you obligated to answer. This question is sketchy, to say the least, and answering with the truth can harm your standing during a negotiation. Instead of divulging your most recent salary (which is your own business and yours alone), provide your preferred range.
Conduct research beforehand.
Long before your interview session, go online and determine the average market value of this position. Use the LiveCareer Salary Calculator to understand your worth. Review salary data for your industry overall, your specific position across various industries (if relevant), and the averages in your geographic area.
Remember that you’re the buyer.
Keep in mind that you have nothing to lose by walking away from a weak offer. If these employers don’t value your talents, skills, and experience enough to pay a fair rate for them, the next ones will. Be patient, stubborn, and confident, and don’t accept the first offer on the table.
For more salary negotiation tips and job search tools, explore the resources available at LiveCareer.