Activists have long promoted pay transparency as a means of combating the gender pay gap, with the theory being that women armed with objective information about the pay scale can do a better job of fighting for equal treatment. Now Myles Borins has created Talkpay, a new Twitter bot that can bring transparency to the scene.
How it works: you send a DM to the bot, and it tweets out anonymized information about your salary, industry, race, and gender.
Coming soon... send us a dm and we'll auto tweet your #talkpay
— talkpay (@talkpayBot) May 1, 2015
#talkpay female, 28, London, IT project manager, 6 years experience, Bachelors degree, £77k + performance bonus
— talkpay (@talkpayBot) May 7, 2015
Borens's inspiration comes from Lauren Voswinkel, whose #TweetPay hashtag and article touting pay transparency in Model View Culture got the transparency discussion rolling in technology circles.
That said, any opt-in program, whether anonymized or not, has some obvious limits.
A broader solution exists in Norway, where the government makes it possible to look up anyone's tax return online, thus ensuring full transparency of all salaries. Any person at any job can go look up any of their colleagues' pay or pay received by people doing comparable work at a competing firm.
So does it work? Well, Norway does have the smallest pay gap for experienced workers (Germany does better for 20-somethings) of any advanced economy.
So is that the miracle of pay transparency at work?
Unfortunately, it's a bit difficult to say for sure, since Norway's public policy varies dramatically from America's in a variety of ways. Norway has quotas mandating that women be represented on corporate boards and parental leave policies that are both generous and optimized to ensure men participate in child-rearing. It also has a higher share of its workforce in the public sector, and even in the US the public sector pay gap is smaller than in the private sector.
And even the Norwegians have stepped away from radical transparency somewhat. It used to be that the database was free and open, leading newspapers and other media organizations to create sites where you could browse salary data anonymously. Now you need to log in, and the system is two-way transparent, meaning you can see who's been creeping on your salary data.
Still, even in its current form Norwegian transparency is light-years ahead of any Twitter bot — creating a system that doesn't just change the conversation but that actually lets people rigorously research pay equity questions and find unambiguous proof when they're undervalued by their employer.