Salary transparency is a topic that’s been spreading across professional circles in recent months. On Episode 103 of the Talent & Growth Podcast we spoke to Hannah Williams about how her company Salary Transparent Street is building better conversations around money. Their goal is to break taboos surrounding money, get people equal pay and break pay secrecy. Hannah spoke to us about how we can help them do that. 

What’s the vision for Salary Transparency Street?

It’s just to give people the resources to advocate for themselves. Our vision is pay transparency, which will help people get paid fairly – especially women, minorities, workers with disabilities and members of the LGBTQ community or anyone else who is biassed against or victimised.  Pay secrecy plays a really big part in that mistreatment of minorities. By having these open conversations and encouraging people to talk about money with their colleagues and their friends, we’re going to help close those pay gaps.

What kind of response do you get from people when asking them about their professions and salary history? 

It’s really good. I think a lot of people think that there’s a lot of negativity, but most people are excited to talk to me and share, especially now that we get recognised. People say, “You’re that salary transparency girl, can I do an interview?” They’re excited to put that information out there. There are differences with various demographics that we chat with. Younger people are a lot more likely to be excited and open to those conversations than older people. Gen X and Boomers often give responses like “What do you want next? My Social Security number?” and I have to accept that they’re not into the conversation, and that’s okay. 

Sometimes we just have conversations with people on the street who are curious about what we do. People tell us that they’re not allowed to share their salary, or they had to sign an NDA. I love those opportunities, because they’re learning opportunities. They give me a chance to share education with them and tell them that’s illegal; there’s a labour law that says you have every right to discuss your pay. Most people aren’t aware of that. Companies take advantage of us every day with this illegal mentality that you’re not allowed to talk about your salary. Even when we get push-back, I feel like it’s always a learning opportunity to share education or insight that makes people think twice about why they’re told money should be secret.

What impact do you think 100% salary transparency would have on equality and pay gaps if we got there?

It would not close them. There’s always going to be this implicit bias which we can’t close, so there’s going to be that 1%. But I think salary transparency would remove almost 99% of those gaps. Right now, when people go into conversations about pay at interviews, it’s all on candidates or possible employees to set the benchmarks. They have no idea what a company’s individual budget is, no matter how much market research they do. That means there’s always going to be opportunities for people to be underpaid. Salary transparency solves that by showing that this role is about 50-60k. Candidates can go in knowing that they’re worth 58k because of the market research and their certifications. It’ll remove that huge gap, because the gap is caused by people not negotiating or people being undercut because of bias.

Unfortunately, companies could have fixed this problem a long time ago, but they didn’t.  Now we’re in a bit of a mess, where people are thinking about how much their colleague is making and worrying that they’re constantly being underpaid. If companies had felt the onus of responsibility to pay their employees fairly from the beginning and put pay ranges in all their job descriptions, we wouldn’t really be having these conversations. So many of us are uncomfortable with people knowing how much we make, but we shouldn’t be. How much you make says absolutely nothing about who you are or what you bring to society. When people feel embarrassed or ashamed, that’s when that taboo comes in, which is another thing that we’re trying to get rid of. 

Do you think that we might start seeing the progress stopping because the power is shifting back to corporations in the hiring market?

Unfortunately, that is a very likely scenario. A lot of the fear mongering about a recession coming up is also not accurate, because we’re still seeing a really strong labour market where people are still quitting their jobs and finding new ones. We need to keep going, because unfortunately, the reality is that we do have that power imbalance. That’s why transparency is so important, because employees are the ones that are able to be taken advantage of. If you really need a job, you’re not going to do things that might risk that job offer such as negotiating your salary or asking for more. That enables companies to take advantage of them. It’s a very likely possibility that if we do slip into a recession there will be a resulting lull in the positive movement for labour and legislation. But, it’s not the end of things if there’s a little bit of a setback with the economy. We just have to keep pushing. 

To hear more about Hannah’s work and how we can reduce pay gaps in our industry, tune into the full episode of the Talent & Growth Podcast here