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Woman says she fought for equal pay after seeing she earned $90k less for same role

NEW YORK — A New York City woman has gone viral for tweeting about her fight for equal pay.

Kimberly Nguyen, a 25-year-old user experience writer, tweeted earlier this month that she saw a job listing for a full-time position with her company that pays as much as $90,000 more than what she makes as a contractor in the same position.

In a tweet that now has more than 12 million views, Nguyen said that she was able to find out about the salary disparity thanks to a salary transparency law that went into effect in New York City last October.

The law requires companies with at least four employees, at least one of which is based in the city, to include a minimum and maximum salary on job listings, according to the New York City Commission on Human Rights, which is enforcing the law.

"My company just listed on LinkedIn a job posting for what I'm currently doing (so we're hiring another UX writer) and now thanks to salary transparency laws, I see that they intend to pay this person $32k-$90k more than they currently pay me, so I applied," she tweeted March 7.

Speaking with "Good Morning America," Nguyen said that when the city's salary transparency law first went into effect, "I actually started going online and Google searching, 'How much does a UX writer make?'"

"I started looking at job listings in New York City for UX writers, and seeing the advertised salary as being way way higher than what I was making," she said.

When Nguyen saw her company's job posting this month, which listed a much higher salary for a full-time role, she said she took to Twitter mainly to vent her frustration.

"I was so upset," she said. "To know that [full-time employees] are making anywhere between $32,000 to $90,000 more than what I'm making for essentially the same work felt rude and disrespectful."

Nguyen said she is also a poet and she expected her tweet to reach her "poet friends" on Twitter, not to go viral.

"I didn't intend to be the poet laureate of pay transparency," she said, adding, "All of a sudden, the tweet was blowing up."

Women make 82 cents for every dollar earned by men

Nguyen has continued to document her fight for equal pay on Twitter since her initial tweet, saying she is now looking for positions with other companies.

Her tweets caught the attention of women in particular, many of whom noted how the salary transparency law in New York City was opening more people's eyes to the gender pay gap.

"As a woman of color, we inherently KNOW we're being disgustingly underpaid, but to actually SEE it?" wrote one Twitter user.

"This. When people argue there's no gender pay gap this is what we're talking about," another wrote.

In the United States, women, on average, make 82 cents for every dollar earned by men, according to the Pew Research Center. The number has not budged in recent years, and it's even worse for mothers, women of color and all women as they age, data shows.

This year, March 14 is Equal Pay Day, which marks how far into 2023 some women must work to make what white, non-Hispanic men earned in 2022.

Equal Pay Day for Black women will not come until July. For moms, Equal Pay Day does not come until August. For Latina women, Equal Pay Day does not come until October, and for Native women, Equal Pay Day is not until November, according to the American Association of University Women.

Among Asian American and Pacific Islander women, the calendar varies. According to the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum, "On average, [Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander] women earn only 75 cents for every dollar that white, non-Hispanic men make." However, "some AANHPI ethnic subgroups, particularly Southeast Asian, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander women, experience even bigger wage gaps and don’t catch up until much later in the year."

The impact of the gender wage gap was seen firsthand over the past three years as a crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic pushed more than 2 million women out of the workforce, leaving many of them on shakier financial footing than their male counterparts because of the already existing gap, experts say.

Now as women are returning to the workforce in record numbers, Nguyen said she is among those who hope that pay transparency grows as well in order to help women.

"I hope that people continue to advocate for salary pay transparency legislation because clearly it's very helpful," Nguyen said. "Especially as a young woman in the workplace, and especially because my parents are immigrants, I have no frame of reference for anything. I don't know where to start for what to ask for. I'm just dealing with invisible numbers, so to have concrete numbers in front of me is so helpful and so important."

At least eight states -- including Colorado, California, Maryland, Washington and Nevada -- and cities already have laws in place that implement some degree of pay transparency.

Emily Martin, vice president for education and workplace justice at the National Women's Law Center, a policy organization that fights for gender justice, told "GMA" last year that many of those states also prohibit employers from setting a person's salary based on their salary in their previous job, which helps women.

"Those salary history prohibitions are important for ensuring that pay discrimination doesn't follow someone from job to job through their career," Martin said, noting the prohibitions also help ensure that "the employer doesn't hold all the cards."

Tips for women when asking for pay

Here are four tips for fighting for equal pay from Martin and Katie Donovan, a pay equity expert and the founder of Equal Pay Negotiations.

1. Do your research on salaries beforehand:

"In part because of the internet and in part because of these policy changes, we are living in a moment where you can find more information about pay in particular roles and particular companies than you could 10 or 15 years ago, and that is a source of power for workers," said Martin.

"It always of course is a good idea to do your research in these situations and to learn as much as you can about what is publicly available or what the law requires an employer to provide in terms of pay information," she added.

2. Be comfortable asking about salary:

"There's a little bit of culture shift happening with employers where there is more of an understanding that posting a salary range is a good equity practice, so we're seeing more employers do it even where the law doesn't require it," Martin said. "That in turn means that it is a more reasonable question for job applicants to ask of employers, even if employer hasn't posted it, to ask whether that information is available."

3. In most cases, you're protected against giving your salary history:

"Under the Federal Equal Pay Act, a lot of courts have held that salary history isn't legal justification for paying a woman less than a man in the same role, so you do actually have some protection against pay discrimination based on salary history," Martin said.

"That's one reason why if I were in that position, I would try to gently deflect an interviewer by saying something like, 'It sounds like what you really want to understand is the salary that I'm looking for in this job, and this is what it is,'" she said. "And hopefully that is informed by some data that you've been able to find in the world through sites like Glassdoor and the like about what the market rate is for the position."

4. Ask for more than the median salary range:

"As a candidate, when you're given a job offer, you say, 'I'm not accepting median. That's low,'" said Donovan. "You aim for 75 percentile or higher, because that's where the white guys are hanging."

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