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‘The more transparency, the better’: How NYC job seekers say visible pay ranges will help them

CNBC Make It wants to hear from workers in New York City who will be impacted by the city’s new salary transparency law. Do you plan to use newly available salary data to discuss your own pay? Contact work reporter Jennifer Liu at jennifer.liu@nbcuni.com.

Ash Ramirez has a lot of experience discussing pay equity in the workplace, but when it comes to discussing their own salary expectations with a future boss, they still aren’t comfortable with the way things usually go.

Ramirez, 28, is a diversity, equity and inclusion professional in New York City and has been looking for a new job since they were laid off in June. Interviews tend to go something like this:

The hiring manager will ask, “What are your salary expectations?” Ramirez, using a common negotiation tactic, avoids being the first to put a number on the table and asks what the company has budgeted for the role. Yet, time and again, the hiring manager finds a way to turn the question back on them.

“It makes it really uncomfortable,” Ramirez tells CNBC Make It. “I want to make sure I’m advocating for myself and that there’s equity in the process of hiring me.”

Ramirez is well aware of the biases stacked against them because of their identity — “I’m trans; I’m non-binary; I’m Latine” — and it impacts how they navigate the job search. “Being somebody who leans more femme, I’m very aware of the gender pay gap,” Ramirez adds. “I’m also LGBTQ+, and there’s also a pay gap in that capacity as well.”

Ash Ramirez, 28, is a diversity, equity and inclusion professional in New York City.

Courtesy of source

But now, they’ll have another piece of salary data straight from the employer: As of Nov. 1, New York City job postings must include the minimum and maximum salary the employer is prepared to offer a new hire.

It could be a crucial tool for job seekers like Ramirez to take the guesswork and anguish out of negotiating their salary for a new job, which everyday workers and economic experts alike hope will play a key role in closing the wage gap.

Flipping the salary script on employers will take the guesswork out of negotiations

Salary transparency policies are overwhelmingly popular among workers, and economists say they’re key to closing the racial and gender wage gaps. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates women earn 82 cents for every dollar earned by a man, and the gap widens for many women of color.

Closing the wage gap is the main goal of laws like New York City’s, where employers must disclose the range on every new job, promotion or transfer opportunity. The legislation applies to employers with four or more employees for any job that can or will be performed, in whole or in part, in New York City, whether it’s done from an office, in the field or remotely from the employee’s home.

Research has shown that women are gaining ground in initiating salary negotiations, but when they do, they’re typically less successful than men, and they face bigger penalties for breaking from gendered social norms.

Once salary numbers are out, job seekers say public ranges will help them focus on applying to jobs that actually pay what they want — saving them time and anguish of finding out during interviews that the pay is too low.

Ann Cascella, 34, is just weeks into looking for a data analyst job in New York City after being part of company layoffs last month.

Prior to November, she hadn’t seen many companies preemptively listing pay ranges on openings. And researching on sites like Glassdoor and LinkedIn is tricky because they can be too general (like a national or even state average) or based on outdated employee submissions, she says.

Cascella has tried researching job openings in Colorado, the first state to pass a law requiring salaries on job ads in January 2021, and estimating what a comparable job would pay in New York City given the higher cost of living.

But she won’t have to spend time or mental energy doing those calculations anymore.

“I think it’s amazing salary details are going to be included in job posts. The more transparency, the better,” Cascella says. “In an effort to offer more equity to New Yorkers, I’m excited about this.”

Knowing the pay range upfront will calm Sneha Rawal’s anxieties going into interviews. The 32-year-old communications professional, who’s been looking for a new job for about five months, won’t have to worry about when the topic of pay will finally crop up or dread the salary expectations back-and-forth.

Instead, she can turn her attention to discussing more meaningful topics: the skills required of the job, what the day-to-day will look like, how the company plans to grow.

Pay range disclosures could be especially helpful for young professionals with less understanding of the market, she says, as well as tenured employees whose pay hasn’t kept pace with pandemic wage growth for new hires.

Job seekers say employer fears of losing applicants are overblown

Many businesses that oppose the new law say that if they’re required to list their pay ranges, competitors can outbid them and scoop up talent, especially in today’s tight market. Another challenge: If a small or mid-sized business can’t pay top of market, no one will want to apply for its openings.

Job seekers say those concerns are overblown.

While pay is certainly an important component of a job, it’s not the only one. Even if listed pay is below their expectations, “I’m still applying either way,” Ramirez says.

Ramirez would also want to learn about the company’s culture, diversity efforts, philanthropic commitments and generally “the things that really just make it a good place to work.” At least they’d know what they were getting themselves into, they reason.

Cascella says she also wouldn’t count out opportunities on the lower end of her salary expectations if the company can make up for it in other ways, like offering good health insurance coverage or an engaging work environment.

That said, she does think that if an employer sees it’s losing out on qualified applicants and learns that low pay is the biggest issue, it’ll force the company to revisit how it values and compensates its employees.

Ann Cascella, 34, is looking for work as a data analyst in New York City.

Courtesy of subject

Rawal doesn’t think business should be worried about getting fewer qualified applicants. Rather, “whatever applications they get will be their target audience. It saves them time instead of going through a million resumes that aren’t going to work out” if the candidate’s pay requirements are too high.

Businesses should be more concerned about how not being transparent could put them on the outs with job seekers, she says. Some 61% of workers say salary is their top consideration when looking for new job, and 53% would refuse to apply to a job without knowing the pay range, according to Monster.com data.

“A lack of transparency would probably make me rethink if I’d want to apply to the company or the job itself,” Rawal says.

Pay ranges are a start, but not a ‘silver bullet’ to close the wage gap

Job seekers agree greater salary transparency from employers is a movein the right direction, but stop short of saying it can close the wage gap on its own.

“It’s a good step, but I don’t think this is a silver bullet to eradicate the wage gap,” Cascella says. There are still plenty of ways gendered and racial biases can seep into the hiring process: “I still think there’s going to be instances where, if a guy were applying, maybe they’re just going to offer him the higher end of that range,” she adds.

It’ll still be on job seekers to prepare with salary research and negotiate their value, “but at least they’ll have a bit more of a bargaining chip when they know what the range is.”

Rawal says it could be tough if employers post ranges that are really wide. Employers covered under the New York City law must include a “good faith” salary range of what they’d actually be able to offer a new hire.

A lack of transparency would probably make me rethink if I’d want to apply to the company or the job itself.

Sneha Rawal

New York City job seeker

Listing salary ranges can empower new hires, experts say, but a more consequential impact of the law is that, in preparing for it, businesses will be forced to firm up their compensation plans with equity top of mind, says Tony Guadagni, senior principal of research at Gartner.

Experts and workers agree that the responsibility of closing the wage gap is on employers to pay equitably, not just for candidates to negotiate for top dollar.

Expecting clashes and discomfort: ‘This is how we reach equity’

Workers also say the salary disclosure law could lead to clashes: 1 in 5 workers worry salary disclosure could lead to tension between colleagues, according to Monster.com data.

But it could be a necessary source of discomfort, Ramirez says, if only to normalize talking about salary not just among underrepresented workers, but also with dominant groups (typically cisgender white men) who can leverage their position in the workplace for greater equity.

Cascella hopes the law will push companies to be more strategic and equitable in their overall pay strategy, especially if those on the lower end see they’re not getting the quality candidates they expect. “I’m sure they’ll see who’s applying and not applying, and maybe change their ways if they’re currently underpaying people,” she says.

She expects to see workers take employers to task when the numbers are out: She’s already bracing for people to come forward on social media about being paid on the lower end compared to new hires, or being hired at the same time as a peer, but earning less money.

People will be unhappy for many reasons, it will ultimately be a positive “for the greater good,” Cascella adds. It’ll be uncomfortable, “but this is how we reach equity — putting it out there and anticipating moments of discomfort.”

Check out:

Salary ranges are coming to NYC job ads on Nov. 1–here’s what to know

28-year-old former teacher now makes $110,000–how working for a company with pay transparency helped

California job-seekers will soon see salary ranges on job postings

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