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New Law in Mass. Attempts to Raise It Pay For Women

By Computerworld

August 22, 2016

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A new Massachusetts statute signed this month by Gov. Charlie Baker could help close the wage gap between men and women in the information technology (IT) industry.

The Act to Establish Pay Equity, which goes into effect in 2018, bans employers from asking prospective employees about their past wages, which means they will have to benchmark compensation to an employee's skills and experience instead of previous salary history.

Victoria Budson, chair of the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women, says the practice of benchmarking salaries against earlier pay creates "a snowball effect, where you'd see a continuing gap throughout that person's career."

The law also bars employers from taking retaliatory action if people discuss their salary, which Budson believes will encourage a culture conducive to shrinking the gender gap.

In addition, the law incentivizes employers to perform an internal wage review to determine pay variance on the basis of race, age, and gender, and any company that conducts this audit and then "takes meaningful steps" to correct any disparities will gain an "affirmative defense" to use in any wage litigation.

Tufts University professor Karen Panetta, editor-in-chief of IEEE Women in Engineering magazine, notes women typically start out with annual salaries that are $5,000 to $7,000 below that of men, and pay disparities often cause them to leave IT occupations.

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