Pay Ranges in Job Announcements Could Be Coming to a State Near You

This past holiday season, my husband and I were making the 13-hour drive to visit his family in Tennessee. In between looking out at the Appalachian Mountains, snacking, and napping (just your usual Passenger Princess things), I noticed something new and incredible: on billboards and on passing trucks, employers were not only advertising open positions, but they were also sharing how much the employee would make! Words like “Hiring: $25-30 an hour,” dotted the rural roads. And I know this change is fueled by one thing: public and worker demand.  

For the past few years, we have been witnessing a cultural shift around pay transparency. We’re seeing people on social media share how much they earn to millions of strangers, and close friends having open, honest conversations with one another, centered around the question: Okay, so how much do you make? 

But it shouldn’t be on us to share and seek this information in bits and pieces from friends or TikToks to ensure we are paid fairly. It should be on employers. And that is what the public is demanding.  

NWLC polling shows that nearly three in five (58%) adults prefer job postings that include a pay range for the position. And while workers in all generations support pay range transparency, Gen-Z and Millennials have been the strongest supporters. NWLC’s polling shows that 53% of adult women aged 18-34 have actually refrained from applying to a job opening because it did not list a pay range.  

This is where state policymakers come in.  

In a few short years, ten states plus DC have passed pay range transparency bills, which would require employers to share with job applicants the range they plan on paying for a position. Virginia and Massachusetts have recently passed bills, while more have introduced such bills, including Maryland, Georgia, Maine, and New Jersey.  


And this is great! Because pay discrimination thrives in the shadows.   

Requiring employers to be publicly transparent about pay ranges shines a light on employer pay practices, increasing accountability on employers to set fair, non-exploitative wages.  According to research by Harvard Professor Zoe Cullen, pay transparency between employers can reduce the information leverage employers have over workers and can increase wages for low-paid workers–workers who are disproportionately women. 

For women and low-paid workers, pay range transparency takes on an extra layer of importance because of what it can mean for gender and racial wage gaps. When pay is set in a black box, discrimination can easily seep in, and women, especially women of color, lose out. While women overall would lose $398,160 over the course of a 40-year career, for Latinas compared to white, non-Hispanic men the career losses mount to $1,188,960; for Native women the losses are $1,151,880; and for Black women the losses are $907,680. 

In the past, we’ve asked women to simply “negotiate” their way out of this discrimination and the wage gap. Just lean in! Just assert yourself! 

Though this is well-intentioned, it’s also putting the burden to fix broken systems entirely on women themselves. 

Women are often assumed to be less likely than men to ask for higher pay, but emerging research has shown that’s not necessarily true. Women are likely to be treated worse in negotiations and women who negotiate are perceived negatively and as aggressive. Fortunately, research shows that when job applicants are clearly informed about the context for negotiations, like the range of pay, these gender differences in negotiation outcomes are reduced.   

Despite the worker demand—and the fact that employers also benefit from pay transparency—still too few employers across the country are sharing pay ranges. And that is why I am excited to see more and more states embrace pay range transparency laws.  

The legislative and cultural change we are witnessing is a win for women, and for all workers, on rural Tennessee roads and beyond.