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Let’s talk about money

At September’s installment of the SydTech Leaders meetup, the topic of the evening was remuneration. It would be difficult to summarise all the angles that were covered (as there were many), but one of the themes that emerged is the lack of transparency across the Australian tech industry when it comes to salaries. This lack of transparency can range from a culture of secrecy (where such topics are too taboo for public consumption), to employment contracts which explicitly prohibit employees from sharing their salaries with each other. So why is this a problem?

The main issue is that pay secrecy can result in highly variable compensations for individuals who may have the exact same qualifications and professional experience. With little data in the public domain, potential hires lack the benchmarks that can aid them in a negotiation process and give them license to push back when their offer is below market rate. Additionally, it supports a system whereby individuals who are more likely to negotiate, are rewarded. There’s plenty that’s been written about this, but in short, women are far less likely to negotiate their compensation than men. A recent study has also shown that when they do ask for increases, they’re (25%!) less likely than men to get the pay increase they asked for.

While there are no simple solutions to addressing this, one of the key takeaways that emerged in our discussions at SydTech Leaders is that we need better data around salary information. Fostering a culture of transparency around pay, even if it’s through anonymous disclosure, is one way to ensure collection of accurate data and greater organisational accountability. It can also force companies to standardise their compensation programs so that bias (whether conscious or unconscious) is removed from the equation.

With that said, an exciting development this week is that StartupAUS sent out the very first Australian Startup Salary Guide for 2018. It’s a comprehensive remuneration report across roles (including C-levels, engineering, design, etc) and takes into account a startup’s funding context (which has a real impact on salaries). A report like this is long overdue and will play an important role in bringing great visibility and accountability to our industry. Huge thanks to StartupAUS and our friends at Think & Grow who worked hard to pull all of this together!