Women are paid an average of 80% of what men are paid for the same or comparable jobs according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This number is even less for minority women. Locally, the District of Columbia pays women 86% of what men are paid, Maryland is at 84%, and Virginia is behind the national average at 78% (AAUW, 2015).
Salary history questions are facing legal and legislative action to eliminate the gender wage gap. Massachusetts recently passed legislation to bar employers from asking about applicants’ salaries before offering them a job beginning in July, 2018. California and New York are working on similar legislation.
A proposal for a nationwide ban has been introduced by D.C. Congresswoman Eleanore Holmes Norton and co-sponsored by Representatives Rosa DeLauro (Dem-CT) and Jerrold Nadler (Dem-NY). In a news release, Norton said, “Our bill will require employers to offer salaries to prospective employees based on merit, not gender, race or ethnicity.”
Other situations such as the economy can impact the wage gap. If candidates were hired during the 2008 recession, the lower salary offered will follow them throughout their career. Candidate demand within a particular career will also impact salary. This can be seen in the ebb and flow of demand for lawyers, nurses, teachers, and IT professionals, among others. One year there is an abundance of candidates which will drive salary down, and a few years later a shortage of candidates will drive salaries up creating inequities. This inequity follows the person throughout their career.
Removal of salary history resets the wage gap at each new job. It is not the total solution to the complexities of the wage gap, but it shifts the momentum in the right direction.