Last week, Lauren Voswinkel encouraged people to post their salaries on Twitter along with their job titles and experience levels. The campaign was called #talkpay. Voswinkel postulated that if more people talk about what they are paid, pay inequality will be eliminated.
Why? Because so much of the inequality we see in pay is based on secrecy. If women don’t know what others of comparable title, skill, and experience make, then how can they speak up for themselves?
For a few days, #talkpay topped the Twitter and Facebook trending topics list, but most were still reticent to post their salaries. After all, talking about your salary and learning the salaries of others can have emotional and practical repercussions. And most employers would prefer that you keep your mouth shut about it.
This Wired article about #talkpay by Emily Dreyfuss is honest and thought-provoking. In it, she talks about how she just accepted her starting salaries without question only to learn later that she could have negotiated. She also found out that a male co-worker was paid nearly double what she made to do the same job. But as helpful as knowing what your colleagues earn can be, it also has drawbacks.
For most of my career I was working for employers who had to publicly disclose employee salaries. On the Hill, one visit to Legistorm or an IRS 990 filing could reveal your salary and those of your colleagues. In my Hill office, all of the aides made comparable wages for comparable work, but it was hard knowing that the gardeners made nearly double what we did. That rather dangerous knowledge contributed to a feeling of being under appreciated. Over time, it led to bitterness among some of the staff.
There are certainly upsides to salary disclosure. Knowing the earnings of others helps you negotiate for an equitable rate of pay. But workers of equal rank and education don’t always put forth the same amount of effort or have the same value. We’ve all had peers who just didn’t pull their weight. My fear with full disclosure would be that some employers, particularly larger ones, would feel pressure to keep pay rates level to avoid accusations of discrimination. But perhaps that could be remedied by altering the titles of the better employees to reflect their contributions.
So what do you ladies think: Would you be comfortable publicly sharing your salary information? Do you think it has more benefits than drawbacks? Leave your thoughts in the comments.