One Small Step for Woman, One Giant Leap for Equal Pay – Kind Of...

By Selena Templeton

At the AppSec California conference earlier this year, the Women in Security panel discussed, among other diversity issues, equal pay for equal work.

A man in the audience shared that he had gotten into trouble – twice, no less! – for increasing the salary of one of the female engineers in his department when he realized that she was doing the same work as her male counterpart yet not being fairly compensated. The Human Representatives department responded: “You can’t give a person a 30% raise. You must be having an affair with her.”

The panel, made up of Marian Merritt, Deidre Diamond, Kelly FitzGerald, Julie Medero and Chenxi Wang, pointed out that many women accept the salary they are given upon being hired because they simply aren’t good at negotiating for themselves (generally speaking).

And even when women do negotiate, a 2007 study called Social Incentives for Gender Differences in the Propensity to Initiate Negotiations: Sometimes it Does Hurt to Ask revealed, through four separate experiments, that “both men and women penalized women who asked for more money.” Why? Because, as the abstract explains, “Perceptions of niceness and demandingness explained resistance to female negotiators.”

Women who do not just demurely accept the salary that they’ve been lucky enough to be given are seen in very harsh and punishing light.

Not only that, but once you get hired at your first job, your salary tends to follow you to each successive job because when your potential new boss asks what your previous salary was, your new salary is usually based on that.

In August of 2016, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed a bill requiring equal pay for equal work. Additionally, “Massachusetts became the first state to make it illegal for employers to ask job applicants what their previous salary was; starting in 2018, a company will have to offer a suitable salary upfront instead of basing their offer on what the person made at their last job.”

The reason this made the news is because, to paraphrase Neil Armstrong, “It’s one small step for woman, one giant leap for equal pay...kind of.”

The Governor of Massachusetts was attempting to close the pay gap between men and women, which is, on average, about 20% across all industries, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

In January of 2017, Mayor Jim Kenney signed a new bill making Philadelphia the first American city to ban employers from requesting a job applicant’s salary history. According to the Census Bureau, “Women in Pennsylvania are paid 79 cents for every dollar a man earns,. For black and Hispanic women, the pay gap is even wider.”

Though it seems like a common sense measure, many businesses oppose it out of concern that the government is “dictating how employers can interact with possible new hires.” Mayor Kenney responded: "This doesn't need to be an either/or argument — what is good for the people of Philadelphia is good for business, too."

Research from IWPR demonstrates that, “irrespective of the level of qualification, jobs predominantly done by women pay less on average than jobs predominantly done by men. Women have made tremendous strides during the last few decades by moving into jobs and occupations previously done almost exclusively by men, yet during the last two decades there has been very little further progress in the gender integration of work.”

Long-term pay inequality is not just an annoyance or a matter of sexism; it actually has profound economic ramifications: “equal pay would cut poverty among working women and their families by more than half and add $513 billion to the national economy.”

At the time that Massachusetts became the first state in the country to enact this ban, California and New York State were considering similar legislation, but in the last few months things have progressed.

On April 5, 2017, New York City passed a new bill from public advocate Letitia James to make it illegal to ask job applicants about their previous salaries. Now the hiring team must offer all candidates a salary based on the job and not the person’s gender or race.

There was much applause for James and “her continuing support of women and families in New York City.” Francesca Burack, President Fearless Talent Development, and NFBPWC-NYC, responded: “Prohibiting the salary history question in the employment process is one major step in closing the gender wage gap and the cycle of poverty for women and families. The salary history question begins the ever increasing wage gap as women continue their journey throughout their career and prevents them from being compensated for their true value.”

Considering that women make up half the workforce and earn more college and graduate degrees than men, it makes perfect sense that women should be paid the same wage for the same work. Now let’s see how quickly the rest of the States catch up to the 21st century.


About Selena Templeton

Selena Templeton is the Column Editor for the Equal Respect column on ITSPmagazine.

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