Editor's note: Mariko Chang is a former associate professor of sociology at Harvard and the author of "Shortchanged: Why Women Have Less Wealth and What Can Be Done About It." She is a featured expert at the National Council for Research on Women, a member of the Insight Center for Community Economic Development's Experts of Color Clearinghouse and an affiliate scholar at the Women of Color Policy Network at NYU Wagner. The piece was written in association with The Op-ed Project.
By Mariko Chang, Special to CNN
(CNN) - Imagine sitting at your desk at work and overhearing a co-worker sharing the good news about his or her latest raise, bumping his or her salary to $50,000. You have worked at the company five years longer, in the same position and your salary is $5,000 lower.
On top of that, your sales have always been higher than those of your co-worker. Given the questionable history of some of the company's practices, you suspect that discrimination may be at the root of the pay discrepancy. You get together with your closest friends at the company, all share their salaries and decide that a pattern of pay discrimination based on gender may indeed be evident.
The next week, you are fired because your boss found out that you were discussing your pay with your co-workers.
Think your employer can't lawfully do that? You're wrong. This prohibition of talking about pay keeps discrimination secret and is an effective way to keep women and minorities from discovering they are being paid less than white male colleagues who work the same jobs.
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