This op-ed first appeared in our Startup Life newsletter. To read more pieces like this, please subscribe.
Startups are big fans of ‘competitive salaries’. Head to a tech jobs board and you’ll see what I mean.
But all this competitiveness has to stop. Every single job description should show a salary or salary range — and there are no excuses.
When a company offers a ‘competitive salary’, the messy business of salary negotiation stays private — and is less likely to work in certain candidates’ favour.
After all, if you can nab a great hire for less than you were expecting to pay, all the better, right? Wrong. I bet that your company careers page says you care deeply about diversity, inclusion, transparency and openness — and a ‘competitive salary’ is not walking the walk.
When you don’t publicise salary information you are perpetuating the substantial pay gap that exists for women, people of colour, LGBTQ+ and disabled people.
‘Competitive’ ≠ fair
As a woman, society brought me up to be polite — not to ‘stir the pot’— and certainly not to talk about money. I’m unlikely to bring up the topic of salary with a potential boss. If I look too money-driven, I’ll likely be seen as cold and ruthless where a man might be seen as ambitious and straight-shooting (if you don’t believe me, read the ‘Howard vs Heidi’ study).
When the conversation comes round to money, I might be asked, 'What do you earn now?' and it’s likely I’ll then be offered a salary in the same ballpark. The pay gap I was already experiencing will continue. When companies were banned from asking about salary history in the US, it led to an average increase of 8% in pay offered to women candidates and a 13% increase for Black candidates.
If not asked about my previous salary, I’ll be asked, 'What are your salary expectations?' I’m likely to underestimate my worth. A recent study shows that women expect to earn less than men, which directly leads to lower salary offers — these findings make sense given the confidence gap between men and women.
Determining my market value is made harder by the fact no job description tells me my expected salary. It’s a vicious cycle.
There’s no excuse
There’s no excuse for not publishing a salary or salary range. If you don’t know exactly at what level you want to hire, publish two job descriptions with two salary bands. Not sure whether you want to hire a chief of staff or a more junior ops manager? Put up a job spec for both, with different salary bands on each.
If you don’t know exactly at what level you want to hire, publish two job descriptions with two salary bands.
If you’re worried about putting off potential candidates who are underpaid in their current jobs, acknowledge this in the job description and encourage them to apply anyway: ‘We’ve benchmarked this role and think a fair salary will be between £X and £Y, depending on experience. If you match our requirements but are paid far less than this, get in touch, we want to hear from you.’
If you’re worried about putting off people who will want more than the salary you’ve stated, then you’ve not stated the right salary. If you can afford more, why haven’t you published that? If you make exceptions for those confident enough to ask for more, you’re making exceptions for predominantly straight white men.
If you’re worried that your current staff will find out they’re underpaid, stop underpaying them. Pay discrimination is illegal.
If you’re worried that your current staff will find out they’re underpaid, stop underpaying them.
If your company doesn’t publish salary information candidates will assume that you’re either trying to save money by underpaying candidates or that you don’t want your current staff to know they’re underpaid. Both are huge red flags.
Not only is it the right thing to do, it also helps you attract more candidates. Research from charity sector campaign Show the Salary showed that on one job board recruiters got twice the number of applicants when they showed the salary. So what’s stopping you?
Pledge to publish salary information
Tech companies talk a lot about ‘celebrating’ and ‘empowering’ women.
I don’t want to be celebrated. I don’t need to be empowered.
Instead, I want to live in a world where people don’t get paid less because of their gender, ethnicity, sexuality or disability.
Pledge to publish salary information in all your job descriptions to move us towards a world where we all know our market worth. Sign the pledge at salarypledge.com or at least educate yourself before your next diversity and inclusion panel by reading more on the Show the Pay and Show the Salary websites.