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Let’s talk about money! According to Forbes, “Prices are going up at their fastest rate since the early 1980s.” This has led to higher food and gas prices, and coupled with the current housing issues, higher bills all around. Now more than ever, it is important to know how much you are getting paid compared to others and how much you are worth. It is time for a national solution in the form of pay transparency. Pay transparency is a strategy for talking about employee salaries within the company. Why is pay transparency so important in tech specifically? It helps cut back on biases in hiring and pay, it ensures that people are getting paid their worth, and it makes for happier employees.
Once a boy’s club, the tech industry has transformed dramatically over the years. The influx of people from different walks of life brought about changes, but the ugly head of discrimination stayed. According to Bloomberg, “Men got higher pay than women 59% of the time for the same tech jobs.” While ComputerWorld writes that Black tech employees make on average 30.3% less than white employees, with Latinx people making 24.8% less. These numbers are dramatic pay differences that can make the difference in what tax bracket someone falls into. These reports show a clear bias when it comes to gender and pay, and it is made so much worse when race is included.
Choosing to be a company with a transparent salary policy helps fix this in a few ways. First, if the salaries are open knowledge to everyone, every worker can see if they are being underpaid. Also, employees can see what steps they need to take in their career path to make more money. This helps retention in companies, as workers have a concrete goal to work toward. Second, with everyone knowing and accepting the policy, it ensures that everyone is being treated equally regardless of race, gender, sexuality, etc. When a company engages in pay transparency, every difference in pay must be accounted for. This makes it quite a bit harder to deny pay on a discriminatory basis.
Finally, having a transparent salary policy shows that the company values fairness and equality. The summer of 2020 brought a lot of commitments to diversity in hiring from major companies and businesses all over the world, but how many of them have followed through on their promises? Unfortunately, Not many. However, the ones that have followed through have seen an abundance of happiness when it comes to employees. One such company is Tapestry, the parent company of designer companies Coach, Kate Spade, and Stuart Weitzman. Tapestry not only releases an annual report on how many minorities and underrepresented persons it hires, but they also post their commitments to diversity in hiring, which have earned them awards for best employers for diversity (2021). They’ve also been named one of the best places to work for LGBTQ equality (2021). This commitment to ensuring their employees a fair workplace has made them one of the best companies to work for.
Why does this need to be done at the national level?
Let’s be clear: pay transparency is not the only thing that will help pay discrimination in the tech industry, but it is a big start to fixing the problem. The United States has had an Equal Pay Act in effect since 1963 and businesses have skirted around the act for years. The hardest part about the act is that it is on the employee to find out if they are suffering from pay discrimination. Also, the law covered disparities between men and women, it leaves out persons who may not identify as either, as well as race, religion, etc. By contrast, with pay transparency, the onus is on the company to prove that they are not discriminating with pay disparities, not on the employee.
While pay transparency is already required by law in several states a federal law encompassing the entirety of the United States would really be the big push we need. One that goes further than the Equal rights Act of 1963. Why would we need one for the entire U.S.? Colorado boasts one of the most comprehensive in the United States. Even national companies who hire in the state must “disclose pay in job postings, notify employees of promotional opportunities, and keep job description and wage rate records.” When this went into effect, several companies on the national level started to skip over people who lived in Colorado as a way to get out of being transparent with their pay. This led to a name and shame campaign by Colorado software engineer Aaron Batilo. Colorado Excluded names over 400 companies that refuse to expand jobs to Coloradans. A law covering every state would prevent companies from being able to do this.
Pay discrimination is another unfortunate side effect of the segregation and lack of awareness of others that permeate American culture. However, we can all take steps to close the gaps. I am fortunate enough to work for a company that values fair and equal pay. It has taught me that pay transparency is something that could change the lives of millions for the better. Ensuring that tech is a place where anyone can know their value and earn it as well helps society. With diverse ideas, faces, and experiences, we can build a better and safer future for every single person that exists. And it all starts by making sure everyone is paid equally and fairly.