Most professionals have been asked about their current salary during a job interview. This question allows companies to base your new salary offer on your company's identification of your worth, rather than what your actual market worth.
Because of this discrepancy, the salary question makes it easier for employers to perpetuate the gender pay gap. According to a Pew Research Center analysis, in 2015, based on median hourly earnings, women earned 83 percent of what men earned in both full- and part-time positions. Based on this estimate, it would take an extra 44 days of work for women to earn what men did in 2015.
Breaking the chain
Massachusetts was one of the first states to bar employers from asking about applicants' salaries before offering them a job, the New York Times reported last year.
The law, which is set to go into effect in July 2018, will require hiring managers to state a compensation figure upfront — based on what an applicant's worth is to the company, rather than on what he or she made in a previous position.
"Professionals should be paid based upon their skills, experience and the value they bring to a position, not by their negotiation skills or salary history," said Amanda Augustine, career advice expert for TopResume. "The [Massachusetts law] is an important step to closing the wage gap between men and women of equal talents and abilities."
New York City is following suit. As of April 5, the city approved a measure that will prohibit companies from asking job applicants about their previous salary history.
"Proponents of the law champion it as a way to eliminate the pay gap, arguing that an employer’s use of an applicant’s previous salary history could lead to gender-based wage discrimination," Christine Hendrickson, co-chair of Seyfarth Shaw's Pay Equity Group and senior counsel, said in a statement. "The theory is that applicants would be paid based on their past earnings, rather than what they would be offered if judged on a blank slate."
Hendrickson notes there is criticism of the bill because it's believed that it will not eliminate any wage gap, but will instead create greater reliance on salary negotiation.
To further crack down on this initiative, the New York City Commission on Human Rights will be enforcing the new law, the statement said. The commission will impose a civil penalty of up to $125 for an unintentional violation, and up to $250,000 for an "intentional malicious violation."
Women and the wage gap
Though closing the gap through legislation is the first step, women have the power to demand change in their pay. However, according to Augustine, women are less likely to negotiate a job offer, setting themselves up to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of their careers.
"Many women are scared to negotiate because they’re afraid of being considered too pushy," Augustine said. "There is a fear that if they demand more money, the job offer will be revoked. They’re overly concerned about being polite, often to the detriment of their paychecks."
In addition, Augustine said women often feel they need to prove their value before they can ask for more money. Men, on the other hand, often enter these conversations expecting to ask for, and receive, a better job offer.
"The fact of the matter is, if you don't ask for what you want, you won't get it," Augustine said. "You have to negotiate."
Regardless of gender, here are four tips from Augustine to help you negotiate the compensation package you deserve:
Do your homework. If you're going to negotiate confidently, you need to be prepared. Research the market rate for your position by visiting Glassdoor.com, Salary.com and PayScale.com, accounting for the company's location, size and industry.
Focus on your current and future value. What do you bring to the table? Make a list of your major contributions and accomplishments, quantifying them whenever possible. How have you (or will you be able to) cut costs, increase revenue, streamline efficiency, improve customer satisfaction, etc.?
Remember, it's not personal. Negotiation isn't about one person winning and the other losing. It's about each party giving a little to keep or get what they want most. Leave emotions at the door. If you feel your emotions rising, hold off negotiating until you can pull it together.
Fake it till you make it. Confidence is essential to being a strong negotiator. You must exude self-assurance, even if you insecure or uncertain. Don't apologize for negotiating – own it. Women often apologize when they've done nothing wrong and may be viewed as being weak or lacking conviction. Don't let yourself fall into that trap.
"Not every great employee is a great negotiator," Augustine told Business News Daily. "If [you don't] possess stellar negotiation skills, there's no reason why you should tolerate earning less money than an equally qualified candidate who does."
Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.