“Women don’t ask” myth

Now instead of answering, I always ask about the salary range for the position and decline to share my current earnings. I also explain my reasoning – in short not sharing salary range and asking about salary history contributes to the pay gap between men and women. It also disadvantages immigrants who are less likely to know what they could expect.

The reaction of a recruiter is a good first indication of the culture of the company they are hiring for. I typically consider roles related to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion so this is critical for me. Only once, and actually, quite recently, the recruiter told me that she would not share the salary range and if women got lower salaries it was because they didn’t negotiate. Institute for Gender and Economy did a great job busting this myth in one of their podcast episodes Busted – Episode 8 – Myth – Women don’t negotiate. Also, the latest research debunks the “women don’t ask” myth and points to a more systemic bias in the gender pay gap. Check out: Surprising New Research on the Gender Pay Gap: Women Negotiate More Than Men, but Get Told No More Often.

New rules on pay transparency in the EU

I only started requesting salary information later in my career when my position was already established, I had networks I could turn to for advice, and I had jobs I was happy with. In short, I had many advantages and I was privileged. But it shouldn’t really be on the candidate to ask about the salary range. That’s why the pay transparency directive recently introduced by the EU can be a real game changer. Among other things:

  • The new rules will make it compulsory for employers to inform job seekers about the starting salary or pay range of advertised positions, whether in the vacancy notice or ahead of the interview. Employers will also be prevented from asking candidates about their pay history.

The rationale is that women in the EU earn on average 13% less than men. Unequal pay puts us at greater risk of poverty and contributes to the EU’s pension pay gap, which in 2018 stood at around 30%. While a number of factors contribute to this difference, pay discrimination has been identified as one of the key obstacles to achieving gender pay equality.

Also, for the first time, intersectional discrimination (the combination of multiple forms of inequality or disadvantage, such as gender and ethnicity or sexuality) has been included in the scope of the new rules. The directive also contains provisions ensuring that the needs of workers with disabilities are taken into account. EU countries have now up to three years to adapt their national legislation to the new rules.

Call to action

For some employers, sharing the pay range of advertised positions has been a standard practice for a while. For the majority, it has not. Setting up fair job classification and compensation systems and being transparent about hiring salary ranges will help you reduce pay inequities across gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and other dimensions of diversity. It is a major step in designing a workplace that works for everyone. It will also enhance your recruitment process as many candidates don’t apply if there is no salary information.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) work is ultimately about fixing unfair systems and this is just one example. To learn more about approaching DEI from this lens, check out my latest course – DEI Essentials.


Anna Kostecka (she/her)

Managing Director at What Works. She is a globally-minded Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) strategist with 12+ years of experience supporting organizations around the world on their DEI journey.