Innovative Equal Pay Bills Filed in Massachusetts

Mallet, legal code and scales of justiceTuesday October 18, 2011: Kate Bryant asks me for the documentary The Earning Curve (unfortunately yet to be released), “What policies would you create to fix the gender pay gap?”

Friday January 16, 2015: Equal Pay Bills are filed in Massachusetts House and Senate that include the three policies I proposed in my response.

It’s been an interesting and educational 3+ years since stating that

  • The elimination of previous salary from the hiring process
  • The inclusion of pay minimums in job advertisements and
  • Allowing employees to discuss their own pay without fear of losing their job

would help move the stubborn gender pay gap needle. It has hovered around 77% for more than a decade and is estimated not to close until 2058. I focused on working with clients and not on policy back in 2011. I knew what I would do but was not well-versed on the matter. The elimination of previous salary and inclusion of minimum pay in job advertisements were not being discussed as solutions to the problem back then. The discussion broadens with the filing of these bills. The potential to see the impact of these provisions plus a provision to ensure all employees are paid based on skill, effort, responsibility, and working conditions now exists.

It has been a journey that has introduced and indebted me to some amazing people. Nacie Carson, sister Holy Cross alum, introduced me to Leah Moschella of Boston Glow who introduced me to Dave Rini of Mass NOW. Inga Schowengerdt and Liz Fragola of AAUW MA and Patricia Ho, AAUW National President, reached out to me at one of their amazing events and brought me into the organization. The Mass NOW Legislative Task Force (with a special nod to Patricia Hohl who takes my business speak and makes it legal language), The Women’s Bar Association, and The Mass Commission on the Status of Women joined forces to develop the Mass Equal Pay Bill and the ever-expanding members of the Equal Pay Coalition who actively support the bill. Of course, the bills would not exist without Senator Patricia Jehlen, Senator Karen Spilka, Representative Jay Livingstone, and Representative Ellen Story who are filing them today. To every one mentioned and the countless others who have helped along the way, thank you for your support, friendship, leadership, mentorship, collaboration, and the many shared laughs.

True as of today, January 16th, the bill is at the starting line of a long marathon. These past 3+ years were just the training to get to this line. Here’s to seeing when we cross the finish line and this Equal Pay Bill becomes law.

Top 5 Salary Negotiation Tips for Women: The Boston Edition

Paul Revere StatueBoston, my hometown, is a great place for inspiration to set yourself free of the fear to negotiate pay and benefits.  As the birthplace of our revolution reminds us, one is not handed equality; one has to fight for it. In the same manner, women need to speak up to have a shot at equal pay. As an added bonus, one estimate shows that people who negotiate can earn as much a $1 million more during a career. So, women here are five tips to negotiate your pay and benefits inspired by the many historic sites and a holiday that are Boston.

The Old North Church: “One if by land, two if by sea.” The British could arrive one of two ways. Either way, the patriots were ready.   They created options to handle the potential situations. Similarly, there is nothing as effective in negotiating as not needing to take a job. Create options so you do not need to accept anything offered.  You can do this by talking to recruiters who contact you especially when you are perfectly happy at your current job. Hey, they will need to offer you the world to get you to leave something you love. Guess what? They often do.  If headhunters are not contacting you, then apply to a dream job that you think you have no shot of getting from time to time and update your LinkedIn profile so recruiters will start contacting you.

The Battle of Bunker Hill: It’s been decades since I walked to the top of the Bunker Hill Monument. I could say the lesson from the Monument is stamina. Keep going until you reach the top but I’m going another route. The expression “don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes” came from this battle. The saying means don’t use your vital resources (bullets) before you are sure they will have impact. The same is true with answering two common questions; 1) what is your current pay and 2) what do you want to earn. Don’t shoot this information out in the application. Just skip over the questions or enter “0” if the field is required in an online application. Your pay will first be used to compare you to other candidates and then to benchmark your salary offer when you get the job. With the gender pay gap at 23%, your current pay will make you look less desirable than the male candidates and hinder you from getting an interview. When you do get a job offer, the salary will be lower if you had a low previous pay. Also, as a woman, you will most likely state a desired amount of pay that is 30% lower than the guys are saying. Once again, lowering the amount of pay offered should you get the job.

Tea Party Ship: Say NO just like our fore fathers and mothers said. Instead of no to taxation without representation, say no to the first salary and benefits offered. Managers expect negotiations so that first offer is never the best one. You don’t even need to say the word no. Try “That offer seems low based on the current market.”

Evacuation Day: I know, it’s not a physical place but it definitely is part of the background of Boston. Growing up, Evacuation Day was one of my favorite holidays. Let’s face it, Evacuation Day creates a way for Irish Proud Boston to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day since Evacuation Day falls on March 17th. This is a great lesson in finding creative solutions. Incorporate your benefits package in the negotiation so you can be creative. You can’t increase the base salary. How about a signing bonus? Commuter allowance? Cell phone allowance? Additional vacation time? Putting more things in the mix allows both parties to find a fit that works.

USS Constitution aka Old Ironsides: The warship survived very lengthy and close range battles. Just like a warship, you need to be ready for a few shots to come your way. The more ready you are, the more likely you are to overcome the pushback in the negotiation.  Classic NOs from hiring managers and recruiters include:

“We can’t afford to offer you more.”   You can prepare your response by having researched the organization’s finances for the past few years.   Your response will be something similar to, “Wow, that’s surprising. I saw your profits grew double digits for the past three years.”

We can’t pay more because that’s the highest pay in the department.”   You are looking for pay that is the market rate for the job. Research salaries on one of the many salary research sites or job boards that exist. Check with a trade association for your industry or job function.   Then respond with, “That’s interesting to know but not what matters. I’m looking to make market rate for the job and that offer is below market.” You can see more responses to Classic NOs in this free download.

Take to heart the five tips above and you can emulate the Boston sports teams and become a champion at salary and benefits negotiation.

It’s Not Our Job to Pay for the Sins of Your Past Employer

Seven dealdy sins signpost“The most you should expect is an increase in pay of 25%. That’s the max and it’s pretty standard.” said a headhunter to a woman looking to leave a company that was notorious for underpaying their employees. An increase of 25% would not even get her to what she should have been making at her current job. Accepting a new job at 25% increase would keep her pay far under the current going rate for her next job.

As the headhunter explained, “you can’t expect your new employer to pay for the sins of your former employer.”   No one was asking this yet it seems to be a common rallying call. How is paying the current market rate for a job an extra burden to an employer? It is not.

Yet, she was not asking for the new employer to go back in time a la the Delorean with a flux capacitor in Back to the Future and pay her the 30% under market she was making for 3 years. That money was lost. Somehow, though getting pay at the current going rate for a job would be a penalty for the new employer since the standard is to add 10% – 25% of a person’s previous pay regardless of where it lands you in the market.

This is the embedded discrimination that lives under the guise of a hiring best practice. Once a person accepts a job for low pay whether discriminatory or not that person is forever punished.  I argue that the continuation of under payment is a form of discrimination. Luckily, I don’t have to make this argument on my own. The courts agree. Specifically in the Glen v. General Motors (11th Circuit) ruling the court found that previous pay is not a legitimate business reason to have pay disparity.

According to data from the US Dept. of Labor, women and people of color make less than white men. Women working full-time typically earn 23% less than men working full-time. African American men typically are paid 22% less than white men. Latino men typically make 28% less than white men. The maximum of 25% increase for changing jobs in all cases keep these demographics from earning the market value of the new job.

As a new employer you may couch it as not paying for the sins of former employers but by using past pay and limiting future pay to a certain percentage increase then you, the new employers, are actually piling on to the sins of former employers.

Women: Victims, Perpetrators, and Heroes of the Gender Pay Gap

Super BusinesswomanThe common misconception of the gender pay gap is that blatant discrimination is to blame. Since the Equal Pay Act was signed in 1963 the gender gap has gone from 59% to 77%, an improvement of less than 20 percentage points in 50 years. Even worse, the gap has stalled since 2004 at 77%. I’m not sure how predictions of it ending in 2058 can exist if it has stalled for a decade. Unless something changes 77 cents on the dollar is where we are and where we will stay.

Not only are women the victims of the gender pay gap but also knowingly or unknowingly its perpetrators. 40% of women who work are employed in management, professional, and related occupations. 70% of human resource personnel are women. Women-owned companies are one of only two sectors that have provided net increase in hiring since the recession. With so many women involved in hiring and pay decisions, how does the gender pay gap persist?   It’s probably not blatant discrimination.

Women business owners, managers, and human resource professionals need to make the decision to review hiring practices from a different perspective and change the situation. Each of these players has the power to impact her small queendom whether a company, department, or process. Granted for most companies, employees are the biggest cost of doing business. Finding even a small percentage savings in labor costs can have big impact on the company. I’m suggesting actively looking for the opposite but my suggestions will allow for a manageable hire by hire impact instead of a huge one time hit to labor costs.

Oh, and I’m as guilty as everyone else who has ever hired a person but I know I will no longer be. What I (and most employers) have viewed as a case-by-case situations are injustices that get compounded if I continue to hire by the currently acceptable hiring processes.  Here’s what I will do differently:

  1. I will no longer ask about current or previous pay because I know that the women and minority candidates have not been paid on par with white men. Considering pay as objective criteria not only hurts future pay but also the candidacy itself for women and minorities.
  2. I will no longer ask about the desired pay because I know women state 30% less than men on average.
  3. I will include the minimum pay for the job when I advertise it on a web site, a job site, or anywhere else because I know the first two elements of determining pay are 1) the market value of the job and 2) the company’s ability to pay. If a candidate is good enough to get the job then I should know what the absolute rock bottom pay is for that job. Also, pay transparency should start during the hiring process not after employment.
  4. I will no longer run credit checks on candidates because I know 1) 26% of credit checks have inaccuracies and 2) there is no correlation between a credit check and a good employee.
  5. I will never ask employees to keep their pay a secret for risk of getting fired because I know it is my responsibility to discuss the factors that determined an employee’s pay and not the employees’ responsibility to protect me from such conversations.

It costs nothing to implement these changes yet the positive impact can be immense from equal pay to improved employee loyalty to the improved bottom line of your company to the improved economy of the country.

We do not need to wait for congress to act or for the president to sign an executive order. Every woman who is involved in hiring can be a hero to all women by committing to changing the process every time there is a new job opening.   Will you dare to be such a hero? Will you commit to making change? Please leave a comment if you will.