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Website makes salaries more transparent

More specific income data can help negotiate a raise. It may also hurt working relationships.

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"How much do you make?" has long ranked as an impolite question in polite circles. Salaries remain shrouded in secrecy, reigning as one of the last taboo subjects.

Now that "Shhh, don't tell" attitude is beginning to crumble as the Internet offers new ways to gather and post information. With a few clicks of a mouse, Web users can browse salary sites to find general salaries for various positions. A new entrant, Glassdoor.com, allows anyone to find and anonymously share salary details about his or her job at a specific firm and location. Launched in June, the website went global last month, providing salaries in more than 100 countries.

"It's a level of transparency that hasn't existed before, so it's initially uncomfortable," says Robert Hohman, CEO of Glassdoor. "But it's empowering. Being paid fairly for our work affects us emotionally, and having that income affects our life. People want to know, 'What am I worth as a software engineer with five years' experience?' "

So far, the site lists 88,000 salaries at 11,000 companies in 90 countries. To gain access, users must submit a salary or review a company. Glassdoor researchers check all material, Mr. Hohman says. "If it doesn't look right, we contact the user and challenge it."

For employees, the information can be useful in negotiating a salary for a new job or getting a raise in an existing position. For employers, Hohman says, it provides a way to see what a competitor pays. Noting that most employers conduct an annual salary survey, he adds, "Once that information is public, it can only help. If there's a large gender gap, it'll be laid bare. It'll be harder to continue with unfair practices."

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