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Equal Pay, Pay Transparency and Job Candidates

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I love that the fight for equal pay continues to stay in the forefront. When Women Succeed America Succeeds, New York's Women's 10 Point Equality Agenda, Boston Closing the Wage Gap, and The Shriver Report: A Woman's Nation Pushes Back from the Brink are some shining examples of efforts to address the issue. True the need for such efforts is unconscionable but the fact that the issue is being addressed on many fronts and with great support is promising.

Pay Transparency for Employees

One of the frequent recommendations to combat pay inequity is pay transparency. The Paycheck Fairness Act, should it pass, would "prohibit retaliation for inquiring about, discussing, or disclosing the wages of the employee or another employee in response to a complaint or charge, or in furtherance of a sex discrimination investigation, proceeding, hearing, or action, or an investigation conducted by the employer." For many this provision would mean the end of salary confidentiality agreements that often have recourses up to and including dismissal.

Job Candidates Deserve Transparency

I completely agree that pay transparency is critical in closing the gender pay gap, but from my perspective, the transparency needs to include job candidates before they get hired, not just for employees afterwards. Having just the latter is a bit like closing the door after the horse has left the barn. An ill-informed job candidate can decrease the initial offer by tens of thousands of dollars as previously detailed in another article. The short version is the winning candidate entered $30,000 for desired salary for a job with a salary range of $53,000 - $60,000. The company's recruiter attempted to offer $30,000. Sure, sometimes when I share this example people tell me the candidate was stupid or ill-informed. Yes, victim blaming helps us think it could never happen to us, yet who among us can honestly say they have never been that person? None of us can because none of us have seen the approved salary range for a job every time we have applied for one. Actually, we usually never see such information. I know of one woman who looked at approximately 200 job openings and only 4 had any reference to the pay. That's the transparency we really need to impact the gender pay gap.

You probably think that the lack of pay information surely impacts men and women equally. Research tells a different story. Linda Babcock, the lead author of Women Don't Ask and Ask for It, has conducted much research on men and women and how they negotiate. Men on average ask for 30% more than women according to Ms. Babcock's research. The desired salary field on an application is the exact same thing as the negotiation. Giving some point of reference should help women better gauge the true value of the job.

Financial Transaction Transparency Should Apply

Regardless of the gender pay gap, the pay one earns is, for 99% of us, the most important financial decision we make. All other financial decisions are dependent upon it. It impacts the home we can afford, the credit we can borrow, the amount we can invest in stocks and mutual funds and so much more. Each of the items I listed has transparency or disclosure requirements to insure the individual is making an informed decision. The financial decision of accepting a job deserves to have the same protection as all the other financial decisions we make.

Truly, if one is good enough to get the job, then the person is good enough to get at least the minimum pay for the job. Granted, small and mid-size companies are not as formal as larger corporations when it comes to things like pay range, yet even the smallest of companies knows the most it can afford to pay someone and the least they expect to pay someone for the job.

Oh, and our candidate who wanted to make $30,000 for a job that could pay $60,000? Ultimately, she was offered the job for $53,000. She happily accepted it and became the lowest-paid person doing the job. Let's end this false job satisfaction and promote pay as necessary information shared in job postings and advertisements. Do you agree?