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  1. Blog
  2. Interviewing
  3. March 14, 2023

The 3 Best Questions to Ask About Pay Equity in an Interview

Why you should and what a hiring manager should say

woman interviewing
Photo courtesy of Christina @

Pay equity occurs when employees with equal job functions are compensated with equal pay, regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity, religion, or other identifying factors. 

Although achieving pay equity for all employees should be the goal for every company, it’s not always the norm. The gender pay gap, the fact that, on average, women make 82 cents for every dollar a white man earns, is a big impediment to reaching equity. Because of the gap, women stand to lose more than $400,000 over a 40-year career.

There are many reasons the gender wage gap exists and persists beyond women being paid less for doing the same jobs as men—occupational sorting, unequal distribution of household labor, mommy tracking, gender and racial discrimination. All of these systemic contributors combine to create a perpetual pay equity problem.

But as of the beginning of 2023, a fifth of all U.S. workers are now covered under pay transparency laws, and experts predict pay transparency laws will only continue to grow. These new laws will likely result in more employees discussing pay with coworkers and holding employers accountable for pay equity in interviews, a change that will begin to narrow at least part of gender pay gap.

Brianne Latthitham, a career strategist and founder of For Higher Coaching, says an employers’ commitment to pay equity can reduce discrimination, build a culture of diversity and inclusion, and reduce turnover.

“Even today, women, people of color, and other marginalized groups are still experiencing pay inequity—a significant pay gap compared to their male and/or white colleagues for doing the same work,” she says. Acknowledging pay inequity signals that an employer recognizes the systemic issues, discrimination, bias, and social norms that exist to limit marginalized groups from opportunities. 

Many big companies have realized the permanence of the transparency trend and have begun working toward reaching full pay equity. 

For example, Target received the first A+ score in history on the 2023 “Racial and Gender Pay Scorecard” from Arjuna Capital and Proxy Impact. The retailer reports 100 percent racial and gender pay equity—on both an adjusted and unadjusted median basis—for 100 percent of their employees, assessed on all components of compensation—base, bonus, and equity. Close behind? Starbucks. In 2009, the coffeehouse chain made a commitment to reach equal pay, and 10 years later, the company announced: “Starbucks has reached 100 percent pay equity for partners of all genders and races performing similar work across the United States.” 

Working at a company like this is well within your reach. If you’re interviewing for jobs and care about working for a company that prioritizes pay equity, learn the right questions to ask and what to look out for in an employer’s response to find your match. 

Read more: Salary Negotiation Strategies & Tips to Get Paid What You’re Worth

3 questions job interviewees should ask about pay equity

According to advocacy group LeanIn, even when women are promoted and have high-paying careers, they’re still generally paid less than men. For example, women managers make 21 percent less than men in the same job, and working mothers are paid 30 percent less than working fathers.

This is clearly an issue, but progress is being made. Payscale’s 2022 Compensation Best Practices Report found 50 percent of companies said they were adjusting their pay strategy or structures, and 66 percent of organizations said they had a pay equity analysis planned for 2022—a 20 percent increase from the previous year. 

Companies shouldn't be surprised when prospective employees ask about pay equity, and you should feel emboldened to do so since many of the best companies offer pay equity now. Latthitham shares three great starter pay equity questions. 

1. How did you determine my salary offer?

All employers should strive for greater pay equity transparency, and asking them how they landed on your salary offer is a great place to begin the conversation. 

When determining compensation, there are many considerations, including the organization’s reputation, its future plans, the availability of talent, the importance of the role, the location of the position and the related cost-of-living, the candidate’s experience and education, and more. However, it’s illegal for the hiring manager to alter your salary based on your gender, race, and other identity-related factors, and it’s also illegal in many states for them to base your new pay on your salary history. So, in asking this straightforward question, you’ll hopefully be able to find clarity in the concrete reasons for your salary offer. 

Read more: Salary History: Where Asking Is Illegal, Why & How to Redirect the Conversation

2. What practices are in place at your company to support pay equity for employees?

Here, the hiring manager should be able to explain to you how they ensure employees are compensated fairly for their work. If the company doesn’t yet have a transparent process for ensuring pay equity, this could be a good way to initiate a conversation about how a lack of equity planning may be harming employees—both current employees and job applicants. 

Plus, research shows employers often misjudge how well their employees perceive their dedication to fair practices in compensation, hiring, development, diversity, and culture. For example, 79 percent of small business owners say they take steps to support pay equity, but only 51 percent of employees agree, making this an important, eye-opening interview question for both parties. 

3. A culture of transparency, diversity, and inclusion is important to me. Do you have any examples of when pay inequity has been identified, and how your organization has worked to resolve any discrepancies in the past?

This question speaks to a company’s overall philosophy and culture. You can gauge if they’re proactive in taking feedback and using it to improve policies. Does the company regularly audit salary information broken down by race, ethnicity, and gender? Or are they only dealing with pay inequity issues when they’re brought to their attention? Are they actively holding themselves accountable to pay equity?  

Latthitham says these are also good questions to ask about pay equity:

  • When it comes to career advancement, what processes are in place to determine if and when a high-achieving employee in this role is eligible for a promotion or raise?

  • What factors are most important to you in determining a compensation package for a new hire?

  • What is the company’s philosophy and/or policy on pay transparency and pay equity for qualified candidates?

  • What is your personal philosophy on pay transparency and pay equity for your team?

  • How do you balance pay equity with qualifications and performance?

  • Based on my skill set, track record, and drive to achieve in this role if I am hired, I am confident I will be a top performer on your team. How will my performance be measured in three months? Six months?

Read more: How to Make the Job Promotion Process Equitable & Why Women Fall Behind

What should interviewees look for in responses from employers?

Latthitham says to look out for authenticity, conviction, and passion in an employer’s answer. Pay attention to what they’re saying, but also think about how they’re saying it. Is their tone one of sincerity or defensiveness?

“Consider both the company philosophy and the philosophy of the individual leader you would be reporting to. Typically, they are going to be the one that goes and advocates for you for a raise, and they’ll have a say in your compensation package,” says Latthitham. 

An employer should be confident in their answer and have examples to back up their words. For instance, a good response to “What practices are in place at your company to support pay equity for employees?” might be something along the lines of:

“We performed a pay equity analysis this quarter. Any discrepancies in pay were random between men and women and most were easily explained by other factors. We made a total of $X in pay adjustments to 100 employees to remedy any inconsistencies.”

Discussing pay equity with a potential employer can feel a little awkward or uncomfortable for both parties. You both might be worried about saying the wrong thing or scaring each other away. But you should feel confident that it’s always within your right to ask about pay equity and ensure you’re joining a company that knows your worth—and employers should get more comfortable discussing this necessary and important topic. 

To ease some of the awkwardness, Latthitham suggests doing some research beforehand so you feel more educated on the topic. Look at general salaries for the role and industry and make sure you understand your rights regarding pay in your state. 

“Look at competitors, look at public information, and leverage personal connections,” says Latthitham. “Take a macro approach to the conversation—make it less about ‘I’ and more about ‘we.’ Be thoughtful in your wording. Always circle back to the value you can deliver and your goals to grow within the company.”

Ultimately, it’s up to employers to ensure that policies and programs are in place to combat bias and pay inequality within the company. But asking hiring managers questions like these could be the nudge they need to acknowledge that a problem exists, and they're your way of knowing whether a workplace is right for you.

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