The unaskable question

There’s a question that hiring managers can no longer ask candidates during an interview. Depending on where you are, anyway.

When you’re being interviewed in California, Delaware, Massachusetts, Oregon, New York City, Philadelphia, and a few other locations, you cannot be asked about your salary history.

Those locations have enacted laws prohibiting employers from asking the question.

Laws banning salary history questions are a very recent trend, and they’re part of a push to fight wage discrimination and the gender pay gap. Women currently earn 79 cents for every dollar men earn, and the theory behind the laws is that salary history questions can inadvertently cause these inequalities to snowball over time.

You may be thinking that IT is different. After all, women helped create the field of computer technology – a woman named Margaret Hamilton coined the phrase "software engineering" and led the team that made sure Apollo 11 landed on the moon in 1969. Ruth Amonette became IBM's first woman vice president in 1943.

Yet, as the industry has aged, fewer women are entering or advancing in tech. A commonly cited statistic is that women make up only about 24% of computer-related tech workers, with evidence that this number could be declining.

That’s according to Forbes magazine, which also cited a report that discovered that, 63% of the time, men were offered higher salaries than women for the same role at the same company. The report found that companies were offering women between 4% and a whopping 45% less starting pay for the same job.

Forbes noted that women in tech also tend to undervalue their market worth, asking for less pay 66% of the time, and often ask for 6% less salary than their male counterparts.

At LRS, we’re committed to our policy of hiring and treating employees without regard to race, color, religion, creed, sex, age, national origin, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, domestic partner status, citizenship status, genetic information, veteran status, or any other status protected by applicable law. In other words, we’re opposed to a gender gap in pay.

When we’re working with a client who needs a consultant in a gender equality location, we’re reminding the hiring managers that they can’t ask about salary history. In addition, it’s our job to work to focus on the right compensation for each candidate, regardless of that person’s gender.

For now, this is an area of law that continues to evolve. Along with the states and cities that already have salary history prohibitions in place, Connecticut and Hawaii have bans that will become effective on January 1, Several states are considering such laws, including Idaho, Maryland, New York, Rhode Island, Texas and Virginia.

This is one of many issues we keep an eye on, and we’ll continue to keep you updated.