Over 18 months ago, as a company, we decided we wouldn’t ask any candidate for their salary history. This was regardless of whether that state had prohibited us from asking. Since I made that commitment, the number of states and cities with some sort of ban has trebled.
I made that decision because I felt it was the right thing to do, even though it was difficult. The laws banning salary history questions are supposed to enable people — typically minority groups — to break out of a cycle of underpayment. It may be too soon to tell if they are having the intended effect, but we have seen some other consequences of this. There are also some clear steps you can take as a candidate to ensure you obtain the best possible salary.
Several countries, including the U.K., have enacted policies that promote transparency on pay gap reporting rather than secrecy around individual salaries. A 2018 study found that transparency decreases the pay gap. While this is due to a combination of slower wage growth for men and incremental increases for women, the transparency and reporting has an impact. Crucially, a survey my company conducted into women’s salaries in cybersecurity found that only 25% of women think they are being paid equally. In fact, women in cybersecurity are often paid more. It may be that transparency serves pay equality more than salary history bans.
The laws aren’t necessarily there to protect those with higher incomes, and in cybersecurity, almost everyone fits that bracket. Candidates in this market are using the legislation to their advantage, to negotiate what they feel is a fair market rate. Many candidates volunteer their salary details, making those who don’t stand out. It becomes obvious that these are the candidates who are trying to negotiate a considerable increase. Generally, this is working out in the candidates’ favor, as the market demand in cybersecurity is so significant at the moment. Employers are also mindful of the market forces and are often more concerned about competing offers than a candidate’s current salary.
To this end, the legislation appears to be having the right effect. The most notable change is that salaries have increased significantly in the past 18 months. I have seen salaries for some roles increase by almost 40%, and at least 15% seems typical. Pay discrimination legislation may be having an effect on this, but in cybersecurity, it is most likely due to demand.
Founder at BeecherMadden, Cyber Security Awards Judge, Industry Speaker