A step toward racial and gender pay equity: post your salary or pay range.

Salary is commensurate with experience is a completely meaningless BS line – so is “Pay is competitive”. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately as we were called out to require employers list pay range and started to enforce it these past weeks. Looking closely at the posts to make sure they comply has made me realize just how many people use it. We might as well say – we’re going to pay you as little as we can. GAIN POWER is now requiring all employers using our career center and Jobs That Are Left to include a salary or range when posting to our job boards. This policy is an important step to demonstrate commitment to gender, cultural, and economic diversity.  Between our career center and JTAL, GAIN POWER manages the most prominent job boards in Progressive politics.

Recently, Fred Curtis, Founder of CTK Strategies, a member of our popular listserv Jobs That Are Left, wrote us an email with the subject line “Recommendation.” His message was the following: 

“I am writing as a Democratic campaign operative that has worked in Dem politics for nearly a decade. I am also writing as a Black man that struggled to initially make it into political work because of the social and economic challenges that many people like me face. 

My aim here is to encourage you all, to the extent possible, to please start requiring people posting jobs to list a salary range. Not posting or stating that “pay is commensurate with experience” or anything of the like is the opposite of progressive. If we are genuinely committed to making our workspaces, our party and our candidates more racially and ethnically diverse, requiring salary ranges in job postings is a small but essential step. 

Many Black people and people of color juggle many responsibilities. We do not have the luxury of wasting time applying to a job to find out it doesn’t fit our financial needs. I believe this to be a small request that will genuinely help these job postings live up to what they say they believe, which is the actual practice of being progressive and not just saying that they are. Thank you for taking this into consideration.”

I found Fred’s message compelling and I did something we rarely do and shared it to the whole list. We posted something that was not a job, replied to the full JTAL list, and the positive responses that come along with it. I chose the route for a few reasons:

  • A mea culpa – I’m embarrassed we didn’t do this as Democratic GAIN.
  • The suggestion came from our community, and we want to lift real stories and life experiences. 
  • We want GAIN POWER to be as responsive as possible to our users – especially from traditionally marginalized communities. 
  • Most importantly, we want to be leaders in best practices for the Democratic & Progressive professional community. 

I should know better – I’ve been stung by this problem in the past more than once.

I frequently tell a story about when I worked for the DCCC over 20 years ago. I became a Regional Political Director along with two other white men who held the same job in different regions. One of these men had a few cycles on me. The other, from an experience perspective, was virtually identical. I was so excited to get the job offer that I aspired to after managing Congressional races for a few cycles. 

I’m not sure what triggered me to research, but I knew that our salaries were public information because the FEC required disclosure. I looked to see what others were making and quickly realized that one of my peers made double my salary. The other made significantly more. The discovery was quite upsetting to me as it was a glaring example of gender-based pay inequity and disparity. 

I summoned up my courage to raise the issue with my bosses (two other white men) who had been a part of hiring me. They were quick to say that the disparity was my fault and not theirs because the other men had asked for more money than I had. They weren’t wrong. I accepted exactly what they offered me. Indeed I was excited about the job, and it never occurred to me to negotiate or ask for more. There are many lessons in this story. It is worth noting that I proceeded to ask for a raise and got a small one. It still didn’t bring my salary close to what my male colleagues were making but I didn’t complain more. I wanted to be a team player and not a troublemaker. I was one of the very few women on the senior team. I never did look to see if there were other disparities. I wonder how many more times we’ve all stayed quiet and taken the path of least resistance. 

Fred Curtis followed up with words more eloquent than mine. 

“If we are truly committed to making our workspaces, our party and our candidates more racially and ethnically diverse, requiring salary ranges in job openings is an essential step in doing that. The omission of salary ranges disproportionately impacts women, and requiring ranges to be included is a step toward addressing implicit bias against women, Black people, Latinx people, people of color, members of the LGBTQIA+ community.”

Another job seeker, Kristiana Zerom, who participated in our career fair yesterday, saw the exchange and gave me even more compelling thoughts. She said: 

“I genuinely believe that wage transparency can be an effective change agent for gender and race equality. It’s the game-changer that will allow people to advocate for themselves and others. If we could make that the status quo nationwide, we could augment people’s ability to lift themselves out of poverty.”

Pretty powerful thoughts, right? 

GAIN POWER is committed to promoting women and people of color in progressive organizations, campaigns, and consulting firms. Requiring salary ranges in all job announcements feels critical to our mission. As the most significant job board in the progressive political space, we have an opportunity – and a responsibility to diversify our community.

I won’t lie. I thought twice about the recommendation initially because of my concern, some employers might not want to post their jobs on our sites with this requirement. It will also take vigilance on our part and extra time to enforce the policy. Some might not post their jobs because of the policy, but I believe most are committed to diversity and equity in hiring. This post will be our standard reply to any who complains or challenges this policy.

I’m quite happy to follow younger change agents like Fred and Kristiana and to let them lead. Sometimes it takes fresh and wiser folks to remind us to be better leaders. I’m so glad Fred challenged GAIN POWER. We’re following his recommendation and will challenge all the campaigns, party organizations, political consulting firms, and others in our movement to do the same.


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