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.

What Will End the Need for an Equal Pay Day?

iStock_000009393502SmallApril 8, 2014 is Equal Pay Day. It’s not a holiday as in “Happy Equal Pay Day” but it is a day that should be marked by both men and women. It represents the time the typical American woman needs to work beyond the previous year to equal the pay a man earned in the previous year. Last year, Equal Pay Day was April 9th.   Progress is slow. Women are still earning 77 cents to men’s dollar.

Harvard economist Claudia Goldin has proposed one fix to the problem. In her research paper entitled A Grand Gender Convergence: Its Last Chapter she writes,“The gender gap in pay would be considerably reduced and might even vanish if firms did not have an incentive to disproportionately reward individuals who worked long hours and who worked particular hours.” Another way to think of this is to reward results not face time. I completely agree that such changes would be a huge step in moving the needle beyond 77 cents on the dollar.

Employers and employees would need to look at contributions in a different light for this to truly be effective.   The impact of work would overshadow the effort. I find this is easier said than done, based on my experience with clients and workshop attendees. We love to talk about the experience and effort of our work because that is what is most tangible to us. Impact beyond our own desk is much harder for employees to grasp and to communicate. The ability to communicate such impact would increase pay if I understand Goldin’s proposal correctly.

Let me share one example from a workshop attendee. She submitted her company for an industry award and the company won. She knew this was important but she was not sure how to quantify the importance. As readers of my blog know, I recommend putting a dollar figure on your best accomplishments to truly impact your pay. She was unable to put a dollar figure on this.   The company had never even applied for industry awards in the past so this truly was her initiating and implementing the idea.

Typically, employees would talk about the effort to get all the right information for the award submission from various departments in the company and making the deadline. That is more of a face time description, which is what Dr. Goldin, suggest (and I agree) we abandon. The impact of the award is much greater than the woman who did it imagine. Here is where there was impact:

Advertising: A press release was distributed and picked up by multiple media

$ Impact: Savings of placing advertisements in each of the media that picked up the story.

Marketing: Leads came in from people who read about the industry award.

$ Impact: Most companies know their cost per lead (CPL). This award just saved the company the CPL for each lead it received.

Sales:  Some of those leads turned into actual customers for the company.

$ Impact: Added revenue of the sales that came in as a direct result of the award won.

Sales: The industry award was added as part of the pitch to potential clients. The award would bolster credibility of the company and minimizes addressing such concerns from prospects.

$ Impact: Increased revenue from any increase in the percentage of closed leads or cost savings if the time to close shortened since the award was won.

The impact was quite impressive and extended beyond the desk and department of the woman who made it happen. It would be difficult for a non-sales professional to even think about increase in percentage of closed leads. It would e difficult for the non-marketer to think of cost per lead. It would be difficult for the non-advertiser to think of the costs of getting coverage in certain media. Yet, that is what I ask of my clients and workshop attendees and what Dr. Goldin is implicitly recommending in her paper. This requires each of us to look at our work beyond our handoff to the next department. One way to do this is to get friendly with such departments to truly understand the impact you make now and to see where there is room for further improvement.

One more point regarding Dr. Goldin’s recommendation about face time. It will take a great cultural change. Just this past week a professional baseball player, Daniel Murphy of the New York Mets, took 2 days off to be with his wife while she gave birth and to spend time with his new child. We call this paid paternity leave which only 14% of US companies offer. The backlash was swift and loud and speaks volumes of the obstacles we as a country still face in embracing equality in pay for women and equal support in family matters for men. Here’s to the day when both is reached.

Tactic: Introducing Salary or Should I Say Postponing the Introduction of Salary

When is the right time to talk salary?  Right after a company offers you a job.

Why?  It is when you, the candidate, have the most power.

That is one of the reasons companies do everything in their power to get you to disclose salary information from the moment you send in a resume or fill out an application.  Most job applications will ask you for your job history including the salary for each position.  You may be asked to include salary requirements in your cover letter or application. During the interview you very well may be asked what you are looking for?

The best method to handle this is to politely and professionally respond to these questions so you can hold off until the timing is right and still be considered for the job.  Let’s start with your salary requirements.  This one is fairly easy. You want to get across that you are open to a salary range.  Yet, the company might push back to get a number.

Here is a sample of how the conversation may go:

Hiring Manager: Tell me, what are you looking for in salary?

Candidate: I’m open.

Hiring Manager: Open is a bit broad. I want to make sure I’m not wasting your time or mine.  What if I can’t offer you what you need?  Can you tell me what you are making at your current job?

Candidate: You are right.  It would be terrible to waste each other’s time.  I’m open but I’m also aware of the going salary range for this position.  I’m working under the assumption that you have budgeted this salary to be competitive.

This leaves it to the hiring manager to tell you if the salary is not in the normal range for the position.  Otherwise, the two of you are now aware that you have both done your homework and will be an informed buyer and seller.

Key to this type of discussion being non-confrontational is keeping a very conversational tone.   This type of conversation can be very unnerving the first few time you have it.  Practice the conversation in the mirror or with friend.  Change the words so they sound like you.  Eliminating any uneasiness by practice will increase the casual tone of the exchange and move the conversation onto your qualifications much quicker.

The application and the cover letter don’t allow for the back and forth that an in-person meeting allows but you may need to address salary on both.  In the cover letter you can state you are “open” to salary discussions.  In the applications you need to address it a little differently since there are blank lines or boxes waiting to be filled.  Don’t let them intimidate you.  Leaving things empty can fill like they are incomplete but this is a good thing for the job application.  On the first salary fields you encounter enter “willing to discuss”, “happy to discuss”, or “ready to discuss” during the interview process.  Once again, try to use the words that fit you.

Remember, the longer you can postpone talking about salary the better positioned you will be to get a higher paycheck.


@ Copyright 2011, Katie Donovan. All rights reserved. Reproduction without explicit permission is prohibited

$30K and I’m All Fired Up

A few weeks ago, I met some female friends for dinner.  It was a last minute thing and was a miracle those five friends who hadn’t seen each other in over a year were able to pull it off.  Conversation included the usual, the non-stop snow Boston had been receiving; jobs; vacations; kids; husbands, and dating.

On the job front one friend got the courage to share salary information.   A true taboo.  She did not mention her actual salary but she shared the disturbing yet common lament that a male colleague who had fewer responsibilities was earning more than she.  $30K more than she!  We all shared her disgust and anger but none of us were able to come up with a solution.

This dinner got me thinking of a Bentley University dinner I attended a few years back.  I was sitting with a VP of Human Resources who also was an alumna of Bentley.  It’s unfortunate that I cannot recall her name but I will forever remember her.  The dinner was an opportunity for female alums to connect with current female students.  The goal was to help the next generation network and learn about careers.  Well, this VP of HR shared that men always negotiate salary while women rarely do.

Thinking of the $30K salary difference and this comment regarding salary negotiations got a little fire lit inside me.  So, I started researching.  It’s true men do negotiate salaries while women don’t.  It’s not an all the time thing.  It’s just for every 1 woman who does negotiate her salary, 8 men will negotiate theirs.  And the men will negotiate 30% more than the lonely woman.  Now, I’m really on fire.

It’s a bit like the old joke of the man praying to his god asking to win the lottery.  This man continues to go back to his place a worship praying for divine intervention for the money he needs for his long-suffering family.  Finally, his god says,  “I can only help you so much.  You need to buy a lottery ticket before I can let you win.”   Negotiation may just be the lottery ticket in close the final 20+% gap in women’s equal pay.

No matter what gains occur for women’s equal pay,  women will never earn the same as men if we do not engage in the game of salary negotiating.  Very few hiring managers offer the full salary available when they offer a job. They assume there will be some negotiating.  If we women don’t acknowledge this than we have minimized our worth before we even have our first day of work.

I know I can’t fix the world.  But I can help women get comfortable and informed about negotiating.  After 20+ years in sales and marketing, I have become very comfortable and competent in negotiating.  So, I begin this blog with the goal of helping women acknowledge they can negotiate their own salaries; learn how to negotiate; and become comfortable negotiating.


@ Copyright 2011, Katie Donovan. All rights reserved. Reproduction without explicit permission is prohibited