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NYC Bans Salary History Questions for Government Job Applicants

Next month, New York City job seekers will no longer have to provide their salary history to city agencies when applying for a job.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) last week issued an executive order forbidding government agencies from asking job seekers questions regarding salary history. The policy, which will go into effect in December, also forbids government agencies from looking for public records containing information on prior compensation. Agencies can only inquire after the fact to verify previous employment.

If employers base job seekers’ salaries based on their previous earnings, women and minorities will continue to be underpaid when compared to white males. By eliminating salary history information, all job seekers are more likely to begin on an even playing field.

According to de Blasio, it is “no secret” that women and people of color are shortchanged on salary when compared to white men.

“As the employer of over 300,000 City workers, I have a responsibility to lead the way in putting an end to that cycle of discrimination,” he said in a statement. “Women and people of color constitute the majority of our City workforce and a large share of the people of working age in this city. It’s essential to the success of our local government and our city as a whole that everyone is treatedand paidwith the fairness and respect they deserve.”

While rates vary by state, women make roughly 80 cents for every dollar a man earns. In 2015 the median income for a woman is $40,742, versus $51,212 for a man. New York women currently fare better than women in other states. In 2015, the median income for men in New York was $52,124 compared to $46,208 for women, for an earnings ratio of 89 percent.

New York City First Lady Chirlane McCray addressed how women of color are significantly affected by income inequality.

“Back in 1976, when I graduated from college, women were paid roughly 60 cents for every dollar that men were paid. That means my classmates and I were valued less than our male peers and destined for a lifetime of less income. The disparity in pay is even greater for women of color,” she said. “From the very beginning of our careers, women and men of color have been paid less than our colleagues for the same exact work.”

Related Story: U.S. Income Surges, but Women, Minorities Remain Behind

Trends indicate that, without government action, the gap will not be quick to close itself. According to the U.S. Census’ income report released earlier this year, the female-to-male earnings ratio was not statistically different between 2014 and 2015, going up from 0.79 to 0.80. The ratio has not increased significantly since 2007, when it increased to 0.778, up from 0.769 in 2006. In 1960, the earliest data the report provides, the ratio was 0.607.

According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, Black and Hispanic women earn considerably less when compared to white men. Black women earn roughly 63 cents for a white man’s dollar, and Hispanic women earn just 54 cents. Asian women earn about 85 cents to the white man’s dollar, but this amount may vary by ethnic subgroups.

Millennial women are already seeing a pay gap worse than the national average. The newest generation of working men earn a median salary of $39,100, versus $28,800 for millennial women an earnings ratio of roughly 74 percent.

Related Story: Massachusetts Takes Historic Step Toward Equal Pay

Earlier this year, Massachusetts Gov. Charles Baker (R) signed a similar law for his state. In addition to preventing employers from asking about job history during an interview, the law also forbids employers from penalizing employees who openly discuss their salaries with one another. By punishing workers who talk about their wages, women are less likely to find out if they are in fact being underpaid.

In addition, Massachusetts employers must now pay men and women equally if they do “comparable work,” rather than doing the exact same jobs, which was the previous practice. The law defines this as “work that is substantially similar in that it requires substantially similar skill, effort and responsibility and is performed under similar working conditions; provided, however, that a job title or job description alone shall not determine comparability.”

How Women Can Close Their Own Pay Gap

As cities and states continue to make individual steps toward income equality, Cox Communications’ Chief Compliance Officer Robin H. Sangston shared with DiversityInc some tips on how women can work to close the pay gap they may be facing (Coxis No. 18 on the2016 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversitylist).

One piece of advice is to be confident, Sangston explained. “A man will promote himself as qualified for a promotion even if he only meets some of the criteria, while a woman won’t seek the promotion unless she feels confident that she meets all of the criteria,” she said. “Whether it is because women undervalue themselves or because women are more inclined to want to be perceived as likable, they tend to negotiate weakly, or not at all, on behalf of themselves.”

To read the rest ofSangston’s tips, and for more information on the pay gap, as well as a variety of other career advice, be sure to subscribe toDiversityInc Best Practices.

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