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Women will never make more money if men don’t speak up and #TalkPay.
In an analysis of the data generated by the tag, BuzzFeed found that approximately 20 percent of the tweets on the hashtag appeared to contain salary numbers (the site used an algorithm because it would have been functionally impossible to comb through tens of thousands of tweets). This includes repeat tweets from users who wanted to ensure a wider reach, as well as tweets from the same user reporting salaries at multiple organizations—in other words, it’s likely that fewer than 20 percent of the users active on the hashtag actually disclosed their salaries.
But people who were afraid or reluctant to share their salaries while still being interested in the conversation weren’t the problem. Another chunk of the industry simply declined to participate.
Talking about salaries is critical. In an opinion editorial at Model View Culture introducing #TalkPay, Voswinkel articulated why the conversation needs to happen.
Pay inequality based on gender and race is allowed to thrive in the current environment. If things continue in this fashion, it will likely get worse. For inequality to truly be addressed, discussions of pay need to become commonplace. I have heard numerous stories of egregious pay inequality in tech. A woman told me how a new hire she managed was making tens of thousands of dollars more than her salary. I myself have had the direct experience of discovering that, while being significantly more qualified and experienced than many of my peers, I was making less than nearly everyone else on the team by a significant margin. These stories could not happen in an environment where open salary information existed. It would become impossible for an employer to pay someone significantly less than an employee in a similar position, regardless of race or gender. Discriminatory practices cannot withstand open scrutiny; unfortunately, the past 40 years have been spent creating an environment wherein open discussion is socially taboo.
If a company knows that everyone will know how much it pays, it doesn’t have the option of discriminating against women and other minorities.
He was one of the few men who participated in the conversation, and his incisive comments about pay inequality and bias were a sharp condemnation of the extreme gender bias in tech. They also echo the testimonies of trans men in other industries, who have noticed extreme differentials in pay and workplace respect before and after transition—sometimes even at the same job.
This is by no means a problem limited to the tech industry, as journalist Jess Zimmerman pointed out:
Many of those same journalists hedged the issue in their discussions of the subject, even as they demonstrated why it was so important. At Wired, Emily Dreyfuss wrote:
How can we make sure men and women are paid equally for equal work? Well, one simple way to at least start is to make it clear what everyone makes. After all, we can’t know we are being paid less unless we know what everyone else is being paid. … And yet. I hesitate. It’s a game of chicken. It’s most useful if we all do it. I want us to close our eyes and tweet in unison. All of WIRED. All of Conde Nast. All of the media. All of everyone.
Many men refuse to work in solidarity with women to discuss the pay gap.
In this case, “what about the men?” was an entirely appropriate question to ask, but none of the men showed up to answer it. As Voswinkel noted, “The lack of knowledge regarding reasonable salaries and predatory behaviors in tech companies can be directly attributed to the social taboo surrounding people talking openly about their salaries.” With men refusing to contribute to the body of knowledge surrounding pay and workplace culture, it’s impossible to engage with the problems of the pay gap.
Oh—in case you’re wondering, as a transgender journalist, writer, and editor with 10 years of industry experience and an undergraduate degree, I made $49,000 last year.
S.E. Smith is a writer, editor, and agitator with numerous publication credits, including the Guardian, AlterNet, and Salon, along with several anthologies. Smith also serves as the Social Justice Editor for xoJane and will be co-chairing Wiscon 40—the preeminent feminist science-fiction conference—in 2016.
Photo via plantronicsgermany/Flickr (CC BY ND 2.0)
s.e. smith is a Northern California-based journalist and writer focusing on social justice issues. smith's work has appeared in publications like Esquire, the Guardian, Rolling Stone, In These Times, Bitch Magazine, and Pacific Standard.