This article was published on November 1, 2022

Salary transparency is on the rise, and we have Gen Z to thank

Salary transparency helps identify wage gaps and prevent discrimination


Salary transparency is on the rise, and we have Gen Z to thank
Kirstie McDermott

Once again, Gen Z leads from behind when it comes to the issues that affect the workplace. All through the pandemic, it has been this cohort that has self-assuredly shown the rest of the working populace how they’d really like things to be done. Studies show that this is the generation that is most values-driven, wants to know that the company they work for is strongly supporting diversity goals, and has an innate need for work-life balance.

Gen Z is also the TikTok generation. As much else in their lives is played out on social platforms, so are snippets of their working days. On #WorkTok, all aspects of career-related issues are curated into snackable, shareable video packages. Employment lawyers share information about employees’ rights; tech workers take you through their day; the quiet quitting phenomenon emerged here – and now, a new trend has bubbled up: salary transparency.

Creators on the platform are talking about money. They are encouraging salary transparency among coworkers as they share their salaries to help to identify wage gaps, and prevent discrimination.

It’s eye-opening. But perhaps it’s not so surprising: A recent survey discovered that only 15% of Gen X discuss salaries, compared to 37% of Gen Z. Traditionally, we avoided talking about money for several reasons – people can feel judged, or looked down on, or they fear they’ll get in trouble if a co-worker gets annoyed that they earn less – and that has, of course, worked well for employers.

Now, things are changing. In the EU, work is underway on the Pay Transparency Directive. Among its aims are that EU companies with at least 50 employees should be fully transparent regarding pay, and the European Parlement want them to tackle any potential gender pay gap. Because not talking about money often penalizes women (working women in the EU earn on average 13% less than men when doing the same job), companies will be obliged to expose any existing gender pay gap in their organization.

In the UK, executive pay transparency measures came into force in 2019, which means big companies have to disclose the pay of their executives and show the gap between that and their average worker. The move has had some successes: Property development company Persimmon let its chief executive Jeff Fairburn go once his £75 million bonus became news, and when the BBC published its list of the salaries, the public was not impressed with the disparities.

Ratifying pay transparency at a legislative level is important to formalize (and normalize) it, but what about the trickle-down effect? Most companies still don’t provide pay information on job ads and other hiring materials.

There is a long road ahead but already there are some bright spots: Buffer, the social media management tool, has a full list of everyone’s salaries available on its website. The company has done this since 2013, in an effort to ensure fairness around pay, including gender parity.

While Amazon publishes salary information for some of its roles – for example, its warehouse and logistics opportunities – it’s less likely to make information available for its tech roles around jobs such as software engineering or AWS jobs.

The Reykjavík-based Aranja is another company that uses a transparent pay system and has salary bands based on market rates – which, in Iceland, are close to the top end of what the tech market pays.

Software company Glitch has been offering salary transparency since 2018, when the company began sharing each position’s salary range with its employees. Glitch CEO Anil Dash wrote on Medium, “We talk a lot about how everybody at the company should spend the company’s money as if it were their own. To do that right, we have to give everybody enough information to know what our people cost.”

Of course, there’s another easy way to find out what people are earning. If you work in tech, comparisons aren’t too hard to find as companies tend to stay competitive with each other for similar roles. A company and salary comparison website such as Glassdoor is your friend here. Plug in the company you want to research, and check out locations for jobs, job titles, and salaries. As the information is user generated, it is considered to be reasonably accurate and regularly updated too.

There are plenty of jobs to scroll through and check for salary information over on the House of Talent Job Board – what are you waiting for?

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