It’s 2017, and yet women are still fighting for equality. Data suggests it will take until 2152 to close the gender wage gap, but it shouldn’t take a century to get what we want. We want more, and Refinery29 is here to help — because 135 years is too long to wait for what we deserve today.
It’s one of the trickiest, most innocently veiled questions we experience when applying for a new job: What was your previous salary?
It's also the easiest way to box yourself into a corner when negotiating because the answer will undoubtedly set the marker for your next salary. For many women who are aware that they are underpaid, a new court ruling is doing to further hinder their monetary success at work.
On Thursday, the federal court ruled that women can legally be paid a lesser salary than their male counterparts for performing the same job. The federal appeals court ruled that prospective employers can indeed base salary on the previous pay of an employee. As noted by the Associated Press, in 2015 U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Seng noted that women’s earlier salaries are more than likely lower than men’s due to gender discrimination. Meaning, this current ruling will easily perpetuate a cycle of pay disparity among the sexes (and races).
"This decision is a step in the wrong direction if we're trying to really ensure that women have work opportunities of equal pay," said Deborah Rhode, a gender equity law professor at Stanford Law School, to the AP. "You can't allow prior discriminatory salary setting to justify future ones or you perpetuate the discrimination."
Despite the ruling, several states have begun enacting measures to stave off gender-based salary discrimination. Philadelphia, New York City, and Massachusetts have passed legislation that bans employers from asking about job candidates about their salary or benefits history. The laws will reportedly go into effect in New York City and Massachusetts in 2018.
According to USA Today, several other states — including Illinois, Maine, Rhode Island, and Vermont — have also begun reviewing similar measures. “We know that when employers see some past salary, they’re likely to take that into account,” says Emily Martin, general counsel for the National Women’s Law Center, to USA Today. “Too often, when women are paid less than men, that pay disparity can follow them from job to job.”