Salary Calculations and the Gender Pay Gap

As part of my own professional development I like to watch tech talks to get a view of how other companies work and see what ideas they may come up with. Recently I watched a couple of talks from TravisCI, one was about building inclusive teams which then led me to watch a talk from their CTO on replacing salary negotiations with an app called Sinatra.

First off I was impressed at the gender parity they have achieved with pretty much a 1:1 ratio that remains so in engineering, I would have liked to hear more about how they achieved that but that could be a whole talk in itself. Secondly I was amazed at the idea of salaries being calculated with a formula and then them being non-negotiable, it’s just something I haven’t heard of before as I’ve only ever known negotiating opening offers, asking for a pay rise when it seemed appropriate and then keeping quiet about it as discussing pay is often such a taboo.

Konstantin Hasse who delivered the talk on replacing salary negotiations, spoke of how the ability to negotiate is not valuable to the role and is believed to harm minorities, that makes sense given how many results you can find when searching for women being less likely to negotiate pay. Konstantin also mentioned Buffer, a company who have gone one step further and published their formula and salaries on their website which is definitely one way to prove you are supporting pay equality. I wonder if it’s something that could be more widely adopted in the UK as it was announced today that companies must declare their gender pay gaps.

The concept of a non-negotiable, transparent salary is somewhat fascinating and provokes several thoughts and questions, some positive and some not so much. I often use sites such as Glassdoor to try and gauge if the salary I receive, and the salary I expect, are inline with the current market as I tell myself I don’t want be part of a statistic and be underpaid because of my gender. One of the positives is if my salary were to be calculated with a formula then that would no longer be a worry and it wouldn’t matter that people rarely discuss salary as we would know we were all being paid fairly. That said though I would be interested in knowing more about how these companies decide on where employees are on their scales that decides their pay as it could still be possible for some unconscious bias to come into play or for the employee to sell themselves short.

One of my main negative concerns about the transparent salary approach is what other people would think. As a software engineer I’m fortunate enough that I make a pretty good living and having that information publicly available to friends and family ready for judgement would be quite daunting. It could be that some jobs are seen as more valuable or harder to do than mine but the pay is much less (care work for example) and perhaps it could be thought I do not deserve what I bring home. Could it be someone would think that because I earn X that I have less right to feel tired after work or that they would judge my lifestyle and spending habits because they know what I earn? I think a lot of this fear comes from reading comments on Glamour’s YouTube series “The Big Salary Reveal” and seeing how quick people are to judge in the comments of Refinery29’s Money Diaries. I realise that some of the negativity may be exaggerated due to the anonymity posting online gives but surely these are thoughts that people actually have even if it isn’t something you’d face in a day to day conversation with them.

Right now I’m definitely in favour of at least exploring methods that improve pay equality and would be open to pay transparency within the business but I’m yet to be completely sold on my salary being published for public consumption.