Politics, religion, salaries. Once up on a time, these topics were all considered taboo to discuss in public. Today, thanks to the internet and social media platforms, people feel far more comfortable sharing their religious and political views with friends, family and strangers. But, salaries, for the most part, continue to remain secret, and most people are still unwilling to discuss how much they earn. I am certain that the lack of transparency around salaries is one of the reasons we have made such slow progress toward closing the gender pay gap. Injustice thrives in the dark.
Although pay transparency is still rare, there are companies taking the lead in shining a bright light on salaries. Some, like Whole Foods, Buffer, Verve and SumAll, have made their salary information available to all employees. Others, like Salesforce, are conducting internal salary assessments to determine if and where they have unexplained gender pay gaps – and then closing them. Google employees have taken to self-reporting their salaries.
The trend toward transparency is growing around the world. In Britain, companies with over 250 employees are required to publish salary differences between men and women every year. SAP, Thermidor and Lucca (France), Rocketwerkz (New Zealand), and CareerFoundry (Germany) all share salary information. Sweden, Finland and Norway, go so far as publishing everyone’s tax returns and providing anyone’s salary information over the phone.
At the same time, states have also recognized the role salary conversations play in perpetuating the gender pay gap, and many are prohibiting employers from asking about salary history from job seekers. You can read more about that in my article for Fairygodboss, Why Your Salary History is Becoming Irrelevant.
While there can be some drawbacks to pay transparency, particularly when companies share pay information without explaining how pay is determined, I fall on the side of more information is better. In the absence of information, people will fill in the gaps, and they tend to assume the worst. This can be harmful in a number of ways, not least of which is that it can really hurt employee morale.
Companies that have employed pay transparency have found that their employees are more productive, engaged, and work harder. In these companies, the wage gaps are much smaller and pay is more equitable. Most importantly, ending salary secrecy promotes a healthier culture of inclusion and trust, which are vital to retention efforts. With the benefits far outweighing the costs, I am confident more companies will get on board and end salary secrecy once and for all.