City Hall is taking action to address the gender wage gap in Philadelphia with a new wage discrimination bill that would make it illegal for employers to ask job applicants about their wage history.
Passed unanimously by City Council in December, but awaiting a signature into law, the bill’s supporters say that asking for wage history hurts female and minority applicants, whose past salaries are often less than those of their male counterparts due to discriminatory hiring practices. The bill will become law upon being signed by Mayor Jim Kenney. If the bill is vetoed, it will become law only if it is reapproved by two-thirds of the City Council.
“By basing your salary on a past salary, you’re in a sense perpetuating the inequity of women and minorities being paid less. And when you think about it, I don’t know why past salary should really determine what your new salary should be,” Councilman Bill Greenlee, one of the bill’s two sponsors, told the Daily Pennsylvanian. “That’s unfair in my opinion. At least give the person a chance.”
Such a “chance” could help promote wage equality among Penn professors. A February report filed by the University’s Senate Committee on the Economic Status of the Faculty, showed a “persistent gender gap in faculty salaries at Penn.” The report also suggested that “Penn is losing ground in diversifying the most highly-paid fields.” Full female professors are paid approximately nine percent less than their male counterparts of equal rank, and a “distressing” two to three percent less than their male counterparts of equal rank in the same field.
“[The bill] could help address that.” Councilman Greenlee said about the pay inequity at Penn. “Now two to three percent isn’t as bad as what’s around in a lot of other entities… but why should a woman professor be paid less than a male professor if they have the same qualifications and background?”
Vice President of Human Resources John Heuer affirmed the University’s commitment to wage equality.
“Penn is steadfast in its dedication to an equitable workplace with a diverse faculty and staff, family friendly policies and programs and industry-leading salaries and benefits,” Heuer said in an emailed statement to the Daily Pennsylvanian.
Heuer also noted that Penn was given the WorldatWork 2016 Seal of Distinction, an award that considers factors such as wage equality.
However, Heuer added that Penn’s questions about past wages, although optional, make the University’s hiring process easier for all parties.
“When an applicant volunteers their salary history, it is a useful tool for determining where a candidate falls within the University’s established salary ranges.” Heuer said in the statement. “[It] helps manage the expectations of both the applicant and the hiring manager.”
Greenlee maintained that prohibiting employers from explicitly asking for an applicant’s wage history would not disrupt the hiring process.
“I still disagree with what your folks at Penn said.” Greenlee said. “[The bill] doesn’t stop negotiation or discussion in any sense. It just doesn’t allow what we fear is an unfair start to that conversation.”
All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.