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Pay transparency remains a very controversial topic, and Google has been part of that controversy due to allegations of discriminatory pay practices.
In July 2015, a former Google employee named Erica Baker posted a series of tweets about an unofficial pay transparency spreadsheet intended to elucidate potentially discriminatory pay practices at Google.
In the publicly available spreadsheet, Baker allowed current and former Google employees to post pay and demographic information, and as of 2017, approximately 1,200 U.S.-based Google employees had submitted pay data. Using pivot tables and other spreadsheet tools, people analyzed the spreadsheet data, which revealed potential evidence of systematic gender differences in pay.

Baker described in her tweets how some managers were not pleased with her pay transparency initiative. Despite this resistance, employees continued to post their pay data to the spreadsheet to argue for pay raises, according to Baker. After this became a national news story, a Google spokesperson critiqued the data in the spreadsheet, stating that the spreadsheet contained only a smaller, non-representative sample of employees; further, she defended the rigorous pay-related analyses conducted at Google, citing that women at Google are paid 99.7% of what men are paid. After the news broke, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) began investigating evidence regarding Google’s pay practices.

The employee-driven spreadsheet at Google highlights the importance of pay fairness and legal compliance. Pay transparency represents one approach for reducing pay disparities. By making pay data freely available to employees (and even to the public), some argue that more pressure will be placed on organizations to make fair, ethical, and legal pay decisions. Others offer the counterargument that pay transparency can actually cause more harm than good.

1.) What are the advantages and disadvantages of pay transparency?

2.) On the whole, which do you think is better for an organization and its employees, more or less open disclosure of employee pay?

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