These states are leading the charge to close the gender wage gap.

Despite the progress women in the workforce have made over the last couple of decades, one inequality persists: the gender pay gap.

What is the gender pay gap? 

To put it simply, on average, women don't make as much as men for the same work and will lose out during their lifetimes because of this. 

According to the United States Census Bureau, the American Association of University Women (AAUW), and Payscale, white women are paid 81 cents for every dollar that men earn — with Black and Hispanic/Latino women earning 62 cents and 54 cents to the dollar, respectively. Over a lifetime, women stand to lose an average of $900,000 in lost wages. 

While these shocking statistics have been common knowledge and hot-button issues, what concrete steps are being taken to close the historic wage gap? Sure, federal law prohibits gender-based pay discrimination, but violations are ever-persistent and difficult to prove. Despite its slow momentum, however, change is happening.

Making the "current salary" interview question illegal 

With Massachusetts leading the charge in August of 2017, California, Oregon, Delaware, Illinois, Alabama, Maine, and Puerto Rico have now made the “current salary” question illegal. North Carolina and Pennsylvania have implemented this law in a limited capacity, banning this interview question for state agencies, while cities like New Orleans, New York City, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. outlawed this practice in full or limited capacities.

That means it's now illegal for employers to ask the dreaded “What is your current salary?” question during an interview. 

The law also requires hiring managers to state a position's compensation upfront based on the applicant's worth to their company, rather than their previous salary. This will ensure that lower wages, which are historically provided to women and professionals of color, do not follow them throughout their careers. Go, pay equality!

What to do if you're still asked this question

While other states will hopefully continue to follow suit and make salary interview questions illegal, what does this mean for those of us who don't live in the states that have already passed this law? 

It means that our interview preparation — especially for salary negotiation — remains unchanged. Arm yourself with the knowledge necessary to negotiate a fair wage and help kick-start a national revolution. How do you do this exactly? Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Research, research, research 

Know your industry, know your worth! Be prepared to talk about your previous salary and why it shouldn't impact the new offer being made — and yes, this is legitimate. Click on the following link for more tips on how to handle salary interview questions during a job interview.

Know what to say 

While there are many methods to employ when it comes to salary negotiation, there are a few phrases you should never use. What are they? Click on the following link for the full list.

Know whether to talk money or not 

During an interview, it can be tough to strike the right balance between being open and not disclosing information that could put you at a disadvantage down the line. 

Keep in mind that you are interviewing for a new position at a different company with its own set of budgetary guidelines, and your current salary is not relevant to the decision. Here are some more tips on addressing the salary question.

Pick up on illegal questions 

According to a survey conducted by Harris Poll, a shocking 20 percent of over 2,000 hiring and human resource managers surveyed indicated they have asked a candidate an illegal question in an interview. Since you cannot always rely on hiring managers to do the right thing, here is a complete guide to handling inappropriate interview questions.

Calm your interview anxiety

No matter how much time and effort you've invested in preparing for an interview, pre-game jitters can happen to the most qualified and put-together candidates. A little excitement can keep you present, paying attention, and on your toes, but too much anxiety can throw off your performance. 

Here are a few simple job-interview tips you can follow ahead of time that can set you up for a win.

What else can you do to bridge the gender pay gap?

You can start by discussing your salary with fellow co-workers and professionals. Experts say being open and honest about your salary is a powerful tool in the fight against wage inequality; it helps both you and the other person go into salary negotiations armed with the information you need to get a fair wage. 

However, just because it is unlawful for private sector employers to prohibit employees from discussing wages and compensation, it can still happen. If your workplace tries to silence your wage conversations, know it might be the time to start looking for employment elsewhere. 

Even though change hasn't occurred nationwide, there are inklings of hope for a fairer tomorrow. According to a survey conducted by Harris Poll and Glassdoor, 53 percent of U.S. workers believe employers should not ask about current salary or salary history during job negotiations. 

There is also a 2020 report that shows progress in closing the wage gap among employees accepting new positions. According to the New Hires Quality Index from the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research in Michigan, the data — which measures the earnings of new employees each month — indicates that newly hired women earned about 96 percent of what men did as of July. For comparison, in 2010, women were making 82 percent of what men did. 

By standing your ground, knowing what the law is, knowing how to negotiate if the law isn't in effect in your area, and talking openly about your salary, you can help push for equal pay everywhere.   

Does your resume highlight your worth? Our writers can make sure your resume doesn't sell you short

This article was updated in September 2020 by Danielle Elmers.

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