Should Salaries Be Secret?

Bouncing off the Abramson story, Salmon speaks out against keeping salaries confidential:

Very few people like to talk about how much money they make — especially not people who earn a lot of money. Since companies tend to be run by people who earn a lot of money, the result is a culture of silence and secrecy when it comes to pay. Such a culture clearly served the NYT ill in this case. If the salaries of senior NYT management had not been a closely-guarded secret, then Abramson would not have been shocked when she found out how much Bill Keller made before her, and Arthur Sulzberger would not have reacted badly to Abramson’s questions about pay.

Indeed, secrecy surrounding pay is generally a bad idea for any organization. Ben Horowitz has the best explanation of why that is:

it can’t help but foment poisonous internal politics. But there are other reasons, too. For one thing, secrecy about pay is bad for women, who are worse at asking for raises than men are. If men secretly ask for raises and secretly get them, while women don’t, then that helps to explain, at least in part, why men end up earning more than women.

Matt Bruenig thinks this secrecy “is only true for people who earn a lot of money, as well as those who may not make that much money but still find themselves in that high socioeconomic status milieu (e.g lesser-paid writers)”:

In conversations among those in upper class professions, I’ve noticed that once the job and employer are identified, the next questions are about how they like it and what kinds of things they do. In conversations among those in lower class professions, after the job and employer is identified, most of the time the next question is about what the pay and benefits are. When jobs aren’t self-actualizing and don’t confer status, that’s all they are about.