Why asking about wage history can hurt women’s careers

The dreaded question: “Well, what do you make now?”

Maybe you’ve heard that in a job interview before. But if you live in NY, California or Massachusetts, you might never hear it again.

Recent legislation in several states and cities has managed to get against the law for potential employers to ask interviewees about their earlier salaries. The intent behind the laws: to redress the balance for females and minorities who already are fighting a wage gap (one which gets even steeper for black and Latina women).

According to a wage gap article released by NY City’s open public advocate Letita James, females earn $5.8 billion fewer in wages than men.

“By banning questions about wage record, we are putting a stop to an employment practice that perpetuates gender wage discrimination and hurts new Yorkers,” she said.

Because females are less likely to earn as much as their male colleagues or to negotiate a job give, the legislation banning inquiries about wage history could, theoretically, help to even the playing discipline.

Related: What happens when women understand how much other women make

The “What were you producing at your last job?” issue can haunt women far into the upcoming, says Laura Kray, the Warren E. and Carol Spieker Chair in Leadership at the University of California-Berkeley

One low wage can set a good woman’s career back, because it comes up over and over with every negotiation she pursues. Potential new companies could offer her less than they would a male applicant with the same qualifications — due to the fact she earned less at a previous task.

“It’s a concern that can bring about ongoing discrimination,” Kray says. “You can see how discrimination at one time can possess trailing effects that would be damaging.”

If they’re not automatically limited to the confines of their past income, advocates hope, these people stand a better opportunity in the negotiation method, to catch up with their higher-earning white man counterparts.

Related: How exactly to research company customs – before you take the job

Even though more states and cities are banning the question, women even now might face it in a job interview. Kray says some may be concerned that asking for even more will lower their likelihood of actually getting the task, or others may think that dodging the wage history question could take them from the running entirely.

“Any time you’re in a good negotiation over a job, whether or not the potential employee has a large amount of leverage — let’s say she or he has other job presents as well — most of the time when they’re in the positioning of seeking the job, we psychologically feel just like we’re in a low power position,” she says.

She has a tip for sidestepping the self-sabotage: flip that power dynamic.

“You want to think about how exactly you may throw it back again to the employer — ‘Well, my previous wage isn’t relevant.'”

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