Amazon to Hire 100,000 without Asking for Salary History. Women Still Hit Hardest.

Like Google, Facebook, and Cisco, Amazon has announced that they will throw out the “tell us your salary history” question in the hopes of eliminating the effects of past discrimination. Several states and cities have adopted legislation that does the same thing.

If a job is worth $75,000, and the person can do the job, that person should earn $75,000 regardless of whether the person earned $50,000 before–male or female.

It makes sense, but Quartz is reporting that it could backfire: They report:

But there’s reason to believe the law could backfire, and end up punishing women. That’s because taking information away from employers doesn’t make them stop caring about the information, said Jennifer Doleac, an economist at the University of Virginia.

When employers can’t ask about salary history, they’ll make assumptions based on what they think they know, Doleac said. “When we make them guess, it hurts the best applicants in the groups we’re caring about, because we have no way to distinguish them, and they get grouped together with the rest.”

Ms. Doleac doesn’t hire many people, is my guess. “We have no way to distinguish them,” she says. Hogwash. If you have an exceptional resume you’ll stand out. If you come into the interview and do a bang-up job, you’ll stand out. Not knowing the salary history reduces the bias, not increases it.

To keep reading, click here: Amazon to Hire 100,000 without Asking for Salary History. Women Still Hit Hardest.

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6 thoughts on “Amazon to Hire 100,000 without Asking for Salary History. Women Still Hit Hardest.

  1. I agree that prior salary should not be considered in making job offers, although the applicant may bring it up during the pay negotiation that follows. I don’t agree that doing so will result in some type of backlash against women. I do have a problem with some of the other statements in the article though.
    “Yes, it’s true that on average men earn more than women, but gender differences make up only one tiny portion of the difference. When you account for all differences, such as experience, education, and hours worked, the difference becomes tiny.” In most of the accepted, reputable, pay studies, even after controlling for all these factors, there is still a significant — not “tiny” — pay difference.
    Also, the claim that there is no evidence that Amazon has discriminated against women flies in the face of reality, including some well-publicized reports. I’m neither anti- nor pro-Amazon, but that overly-broad claim cannot possibly be true.

    1. I’m neither pro- nor anti- Amazon either (although my credit card statement probably indicates more pro than anti.) I haven’t heard of gender pay problems. I’ve heard of lots of other problems–long work hours, their stupid security checks, screamy managers–but not pay problems.

      If you have info, I’d love to see it!

      1. A lot of EEO information is confidential, but I’ll check EEOC’s website to see if it has some publicly-reporting cases on Amazon. There have been quite a few Amazon stories in mass media, but I don’t have a citation right at hand. But, ask yourself: why do you think they’re making this change?

  2. Don’t most companies have access to pay information – I found free info on (We’re small and can’t afford to pay for it). When a previous employee, who wasn’t fitting in, asked for way too much money, we ended up letting him go, because he became belligerent during the negotiation process. Of course, he had an offer elsewhere, so if we had known that, I would have said – hell yes! Take that other offer. The new company can deal with your issues and pay you too much. I’m so confused as to where this woman Doleac is coming from. If employers make assumptions due to gender discrimination, that’s gender discrimination and can’t be solved with knowing someone’s past salary history. Am I missing something here?

  3. Thanks to places like, glassdoor, indeed, etc., I infer that I’m paid fairly (side note: it appears that my profession’s salaries have remained flat for years). I have low sympathy with companies that are concerned that they can’t afford to make an offer: I’ve been on the offering side. While there’s definitely “lost opportunity” cost to make the offer, only to have it declined as too low; thereafter to try to get the 2nd ranked candidate… so what? It was a large enough company, and frankly could afford it.

  4. Read a previous post that cited the gender pay gap recently and was curious if you were aware that studies that use career decisions and hours worked showed a small difference. So I was very surprised to hear it cited in this post along with the victim statements that women on average make less than men. Why not just say, remember, people, our entire culture teaches us prices are take it or leave it. Wages should be negotiated. And assertiveness training is a thing- get it if you feel you are likely to receive and offer that is less than you think you deserve for the value you deliver.

    Seems like that will help your readers more than giving women the impression that they are likely to be underpaid because of their chromosomes.

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