Thanks to Lauren Voswinkel, International Workers’ Day (May 1) there may be a crowdsourced solution to pay inequality. Voswinkel is a senior software developer based in Pittsburgh – and earns $122,000 a year. Earlier this week, she encouraged people in all industries and positions to tweet their salaries using the hashtag #talkpay on May Day (aka International Workers’ Day). Voswinkel wants people to share their salaries so that people will be educated and empowered to make their case for better pay.
For Voswinkel, the issue is pay inequality, and she lays out a compelling and nuanced argument for publicly disclosing salaries. A key premise is the social taboo surrounding people openly discussing their salaries. Consequently, people essentially “throw a number on the table” and undersell themselves, because they don’t know the salary range of their peers.” On the other side, companies exploit this taboo and resulting ignorance of candidates, and try to negotiate the lowest possible salaries. There are also complex socio-economic, racial and gender factors at play. Therefore, Voswinkel wants to break this taboo and begin to eradicate pay inequality with a “radical” conversation about pay.
Pay inequality and issues of gender and race are not foreign to the tech industry, and neither are predatory corporate behaviors. Ellen Pao’s recent lawsuit for gender discrimination against Kleiner Perkins is a good example. As interim CEO of Reddit, Pao banned salary negotiations to level the playing field, as Pao explained in a Wall Street Journal interview:
Men negotiate harder than women do and sometimes women get penalized when they do negotiate. So as part of our recruiting process we don’t negotiate with candidates. We come up with an offer that we think is fair. If you want more equity, we’ll let you swap a little bit of your cash salary for equity, but we aren’t going to reward people who are better negotiators with more compensation. We ask people what they think about diversity, and we did weed people out because of that.
Silicon Valley corporations like Apple and Google paid a $415 million in January to settle a class action lawsuit alleging that they colluded to suppress salaries and not poach each other’s employees.
Vosswinkel put her money where her mouth is, so to speak, and tweeted her salary on April 30, 2015, just a couple of days after calling for people to tweet their salaries on Model View Culture. Her Twitter campaign to solve pay inequality went viral quickly and is trending.