Salary Transparency: Yay or Nay?

Salary Transparency: Yay or Nay?


For some, discussing money and income has always been challenging. But tell that to some of today's most innovative companies, many of which are implementing salary transparency policies. Suddenly, knowing exactly how much your coworker makes is actually possible—but is that a good thing? 

Recent research on the effects of an open salary system shows some positive outcomes, such as open dialogue between employees about how they arrived at their current wage (and inspiring some lower earners to make improvements) or employees having the courage to ask for an increase in their pay. Many companies like Buffer, Whole Foods Market, and SumAll already have an open company salary system.

On the other hand, websites such as Glassdoor,, and Indeed publish average position salaries. This begs the question: is it even necessary for employers to disclose this information when the market value salaries of most jobs are easily accessible? Shouldn’t it be your responsibility when applying to ensure you are being paid fairly?

There are advantages and disadvantages to company salary transparency, so let’s weigh them both and help you vote “yay” or “nay.”


Women and minorities have the most to gain from an open salary system since on average they receive less pay than their male counterparts and face more discrimination in the workplace. {click to tweet} Even Hollywood stars, like Robin Wright from House of Cards, have jumped in on the conversation demanding equal pay. Salary transparency can shine a light on the gender wage gap and empower demands for fair pay.

If more company salaries became public knowledge, employers might begin to engage in difficult conversations about diversity, minorities, and equal pay. These conversations could increase trust between employees and their employers as well as improve overall work satisfaction. Pay may be on most workers’ minds, but salary transparency and the open dialogue it fosters may have a direct correlation to a reduction in tension and stress.

And here's an interesting fact: companies that have a transparent salary system in place may see an increase in the number of candidates applying for their positions. {click to tweetThat makes salary transparency more than just a trend—it might actually be the best economic decision. 


Many office environments already tend to be a petty place, so imagine if you knew everyone’s salary and judged their work and efforts accordingly. Knowing that information can create an uncomfortable and hostile culture. This may also hinder the overall work performance of employees, which can be an obstacle most employers do not want to tackle.

If you’ve ever made more than your significant other, disclosed that information to them, and sensed some tension or even resentment, think what that would feel like at a company of 200 people who know you’re (literally) worth more than them. All eyes are on you, so don't slack off!

Some people may prefer keeping their salary confidential for personal reasons or even their safety. After all, most of us were raised to feel this type of information is “none of your business.” Payment is private. End of story. {click to tweet}

Not all companies will benefit from having an open salary system. The culture of the company heavily relies on the outcomes of this process. Research recommends that companies should test the transparent salary system before implementing it fully. And since open salary is a fairly unchartered territory, it might have some unexpected and even disastrous results. So tread lightly if you are thinking of introducing this system into your company.

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What has your experience been with this topic? Do you find that company salary transparency was beneficial or disadvantageous in your workplace?

If you want to keep the conversation about salary going, jump in on our Salary Project—where we ask women to anonymously reveal their annual incomes to help us all know what to expect across industries.

Photo: Tinxi /