Massachusetts has given us such treasures as New England Clam Chowder, the Red Sox, Boston cream pie and now they are the first state in this nation to truly do something about the pay gap that exists with so many private companies. Massachusetts is the first state to ban employers, both public and private, from asking for salary history during the recruiting and job offer process. How does that affect the pay gap you ask? It’s simple, when a person’s future salary is based, in part, on their past salary and their past salary was lower because they were a woman or a minority or a certain age, their future salary will remain lower than people in other groups and the gap, over time, only widens. Playing the truly exhausting game of “salary catch up” becomes a futile task.
This may leave some people asking, “if we don’t know a person’s past salary how do we know what they expect to make now?” Well here’s a novel idea, we should pay what the position is worth regardless of that individual’s salary has been in the past. I’ve never heard a company say “since I’m only paying you 64% of what your white male counterpart makes I only expect 64% of the work.” (as a black woman that is statistically what I make in comparison to my white male counterparts).
How does that play out if someone has less experience than someone else? Again, I ask the question, do you lower the expectations once they are in the role? If not, they should receive the same compensation. Does that mean every person should make the exact same salary, not necessarily, there will always be differences in roles, expectations and abilities that should be factored in but if two people have the same title, are held accountable for the same outputs and judged against the same ruler why would one make 30-40% more than the other???
Many may be asking, “how did the pay gap come into existence, isn’t it common sense that people doing the same job should make the same money?” Sadly, it isn’t…or at least historically it hasn’t been. In the past, many companies used the “person” method of determining compensation meaning they paid the person what they felt that person needed instead of what the job was worth. You heard comments like, “he’s probably the bread winner for his family so he needs extra income” or “she should be lucky she works here, if it weren’t for affirmative action we wouldn’t hire her” or my personal favorite, “she’s only working until she starts a family, it’s not like she really wants a career”.
Today you don’t hear those comments (I hope anyway) but some of those attitudes prevail. More importantly, because they were so common in the past and many companies used a person’s past salary to help set their current salary it became a never-ending cycle of pay inequities that widened over the years to what we now see.
Speaking of that, what do we see now? With all of the legislation and education, isn’t the problem going away on its own…NO. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2013, on average, Hispanic Women earned only 54% of what a White Man earned FOR THE EXACT SAME JOB. The chart below gives statistics for additional groups.
|White Men||Black Men||Hispanic Men||White Women||Black Women||Hispanic Women|
Once inequities like that have been established, the only way to break them is to stop relaying on past salaries and pay everyone for the job they are doing, not the demographic box they check.
Thank you Massachusetts for one of my favorite basketball teams, thank you for fine institutions of higher learning and most of all THANK YOU for starting to solve an epidemic in our country! I hope we see the rest of the country follow in your footsteps and stop asking people about the past when determining their future!
Christy Pruitt-Haynes Consulting works with organizations and individuals to help them on their quest towards professional excellence. If you’re facing significant change, unprecedented growth or stagnant results Christy Pruitt-Haynes Consulting will help by providing customized tools to solve problems, increase employee engagement, improve leadership capabilities and increase profits. As a Speaker, Trainer and Coach, Christy will provide diversity of thought, enhanced communication, improved leadership and a maximized corporate culture. CPH Consulting will help grow your business!