Pay transparency: Should we be talking about salaries?

Written by Annie Makoff-Clark Tuesday 18 April 2023
Finding out that your coworker in the same role takes home more than you can be extremely demoralising, and it’s particularly common for women and ethnic minority groups. Yet discussing pay with colleagues is still taboo. Could more transparency help?
A transparent piggy bank filled with money

Francesca Lawson remembers exactly how she felt in 2017 when the company she previously worked for published their pay data for the first time. “I was so excited and hopeful. I felt I had power back in my hands.”

Francesca was all too aware of the realities of the gender pay gap. In a previous role, she was treated differently to a male colleague, even though they were doing the same job, arousing suspicions that he was paid more than she was. “It was an inkling I had,” says Francesca who today is the creator of Twitter-based @PayGapApp and a freelance social media manager. “He also had ‘Manager’ in his job title and I didn’t. He had more flexibility with working hours and deadlines.”

If Francesca hoped that mandatory pay gap reporting would bring about change, she was to be disappointed. The company she worked for reported a 20% gender pay gap (the median is around 15%), but nobody seemed interested in addressing it.

“In our job advertisements, the language was always about how fair and ethical we were. And, as I was in marketing, I had to be part of the messaging and communications around International Womens’ Day. It was so demoralising – it just felt we had nothing good to say.”

My predecessor had the same experience as me, so I knew without a doubt that I wasn’t being paid at the going rate

Meanwhile, Emma Leech CMgr, global marketing director at Heriot-Watt University and chartered PR practitioner, had her pay gap confirmed. She discovered that her male predecessor had been on “significantly” higher pay. “I found it out by accident, through paperwork lying around,” she recalls. “My predecessor had the same experience, qualifications and track record as me, so I knew without a doubt that I wasn’t being paid at the going rate.”

Keep reading to learn more about the big questions surrounding pay transparency


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