Negotiating a salary is one of the most important moments in your professional life. In our capitalist society, how much money you make determines where you live, how you’ll pay your bills, how you’ll support your family, how you’ll stay financially afloat.

Transparent and accessible information about the salary range for a position helps applicants understand if a job is the right fit for them; however, usually this information exists only with employers, who too often hold all of the power in salary negotiations.

That’s about to change here in Connecticut.

Earlier this year, Connecticut lawmakers joined a small handful of other states in adopting P.A. 21-30: An Act Concerning the Disclosure of Salary Range for a Vacant Position. As of October 1, the law requires employers to provide salary ranges to job applicants and existing employees, either upon request or before a job offer is made.

P.A. 21-30 is a critical step in our state’s journey to close gender and racial wage gaps: in Connecticut, Asian women earn $0.83, Black women earn $0.57, Native women earn $0.53 and Latinas earn $0.48 for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men.

Pre-pandemic, women in Connecticut would lose over $400,000 over the course of a 40 -year career due to the gender wage gap. This number grows substantially for Black, Native and Latina women, whose career losses top $1 million.

Lost earnings due to the gender wage gap have very real consequences for women in our state and the families that depend on their income. Generations of systemic racism and sexism have also meant that women, especially women of color, have had very little financial cushion to withstand the COVID-19 pandemic and still pay rent, buy groceries and keep up with life’s basic necessities. Gender and racial wage gaps — as well as wage losses that add up over time — are expected to widen due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Secrecy around salary information only perpetuates the wage gap. Research shows that women ask for less money than men when they negotiate, even when they are equally qualified and applying for similar jobs as their male counterparts.

This is in part because it is common practice for job applicants to negotiate 10-20% more than their previous salary. Since women, specifically women of color, are already paid significantly less, they would need to ask for a very large percentage increase to be on par with their white, non-Hispanic male colleagues. This, compounded by unconscious and implicit bias that labels women as less likeable or desirable candidates when they negotiate the salary they deserve, contributes to a cycle where women continue to be underpaid and undervalued.

Knowledge is power and is one key to ending disparities in pay. Studies indicate the wage gap between men and women nearly disappears when employers adopt transparent pay practices and that women are more successful in salary negotiations when they are provided context, including the wage range, types of compensation and benefits available to them. This makes sense, especially since the wage gap is much narrower in the public sector, where agencies typically operate within transparent and public pay structures – further evidence that greater pay transparency will reduce wage disparities.

P.A. 21-30 levels the playing field in salary negotiations and provides workers the information they need to make informed decisions about where they work and what they earn. The law is one of many proactive ways to continue our state’s leadership on gender equity and provide women the tools to re-enter the workforce after COVID-19.

As we continue to live and work through this crisis, stakes have never been higher for workers — especially women of color who have experienced the most severe financial impact — to be paid what they’re worth, plus tax. Transparency in pay is a start.

To recover from this crisis and chart an equitable path forward for our state, we need more: universal health care and child care, access to paid sick days and hazard pay for essential workers, and more. We encourage lawmakers and Gov. Ned Lamont to continue to lead with bold, intentional action that centers the experiences of women, especially women of color, in every policy decision.

While P.A. 21-30 is an important step forward, it’s just one piece of a larger puzzle to achieve true economic justice for women and workers of color in our state.

Madeline Granato is the Policy Director for the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund (CWEALF).