How much do YOU make?

I work for a ginormous company and generally love my job.  It, like many others, demands that employees not share their salary information with anybody, and states that any employee who does so could be faced with disciplinary action, including termination.

American society considers discussing one’s personal finances impolite, despite our preoccupation with brands, jobs, cars, and status.  This furtive obsession manifests itself in outlets like Bravo TV, with franchises devoted to “housewives,” millionaire bachelors, and $500 dinners; magazines as diverse as People, InStyle, Esquire, Vogue, and Forbes; and parent and student objection to school uniforms.  And, although most of us never ask our neighbors how much money they make, I, at least, am constantly, surreptitiously comparing my compensation with my suspicions of others’, both to suit my innate curiosity and to probably assuage my own resentment at what I consider to be my own, subpar, salary.

America’s gendered wage gap has hardly narrowed in the past four decades, and currently sits at about a 77:100 ratio.  There are many, complex reasons for said gap — a couple are legitimate, but most are crap.

To assuage American employees’ resentment and hopefully narrow the wage gap further, companies should allow their employees to share their own salary information.

Giving employees the freedom to share their compensation information without fear of repercussion would create an even stronger capitalist economy than the one we already have.  It would create an even freer version of Smith’s marketplace of ideas, allowing all workers to get a solid idea of the true market value of their work and the power to negotiate for themselves more effectively.

As it is now, secretive compensation systems place nearly all of the bargaining chips in the potential employer’s court, leaving potential employees with only their own compensation histories, and maybe some vague google results, with which to bargain.  This is especially problematic when one seeks a job in a completely new industry, whether one just graduated from school, is moving laterally within an industry, or is changing industries entirely.

Websites like glassdoor.com have emerged to fill this void, but are only helpful when a critical mass of people have posted their own detailed salary information, specific location and title, and work experience.  This is decent if you have a job that lots of others do — “Mechanical Engineer, San Mateo” — but not so much if your position is fairly unique — “SAT Teacher, Berkeley.”  Furthermore, when you do have a fairly unique position, you don’t really want to post your correct information anyway, in case your boss skulks around the interwebs and figures it out.  Therefore, this limited information is fairly well-intentioned, but insufficient.

The only compelling reason to withhold salary information that I can think of is in companies’ favor — they hold the power and information, and keeping their un-unionized employees in the dark ensures that they have insufficient information to bargain for their own livelihoods.

Honestly, I can’t think of one single perk of this system for everyday employees.  If you can, please, PLEASE let me know.  I’m curious, although I might not be persuadable.

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