Pay secrecy norms have ‘simply lost their teeth,’ say experts. Here's why


According to Indeed Hiring Lab’s economic research arm, Indeed, in August, 50 percent of online job postings included salary information, up from 18% in February 2020. The growth of pay transparency is due to the recent laws passed by municipalities and states. In addition, job seekers also recently had historically high leverage as employers clamored to hire workers at the reopening of post-pandemic economy.

“With the growth of such pay transparency, the lingering norms and policies around pay secrecy have simply lost their teeth,” Tomasz Obloj and Todd Zenger, professors at Indiana University and the University of Utah, respectively, recently wrote in Harvard Business Review.

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It appears pay transparency rates “will continue to climb,” said Cory Stahle, an economist at Indeed.
The Indeed stats don’t include ads that post only a maximum salary, due to the ambiguity of the practice, Stahle said. The wage gap costs women $1.6 trillion a year, according to a new report
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It appears pay transparency rates New York became the latest state on Sunday to adopt a law regarding pay transparency. The pay transparency movement has only been around for a few years. Colorado was the first state to pass a law in 2019, and it took effect on Jan. 1, 2021. Other states have taken ‘a slightly Colorado was the first state to pass such a law, in 2019, and it took effect on Jan. 1, 2021.

Other local governments — like the city of Ithaca, along with Albany and Westchester counties in New York, and Jersey City in New Jersey — have enacted pay transparency laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Other states have taken “a slightly more flexible approach,” NCSL said.

For instance, states and municipalities such as Cincinnati and Toledo in Ohio; Maryland; Connecticut; Rhode Island; and Nevada have passed laws that allow employers to disclose salary ranges to job applicants upon request, according to the National Women’s Law Center.

A “profusion” of websites — like,, and — have also provided “rather open access to employer pay information,” Obloj and Zenger said.

There are pros and cons

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Greater access to salary information in job postings poses clear benefits for both workers and businesses, experts said.

For instance, transparency can help close persistent pay gaps, especially for women and people of color, said Mandi Woodruff-Santos, a career and money coach.

“It levels the playing field,” she said. There are pros and cons to greater access to salary information in job postings, experts said. Stahle, from Indeed, said that salary information reduces frictions when it comes to applying for jobs and hiring because workers can filter and decide the positions they prefer, and apply more quickly. He said it could also help young workers or recent graduates with career planning.

It evens the playing field. At least they have a starting-off point.

Mandi Woodruff-Santos

career and money coach

Further, 75% of job seekers are more likely to apply for a job if the salary range is listed in the posting, according to a 2022 Indeed survey. Fifty-six percent are more likely to apply for a company — even if they don’t recognize the company name — if the salary range is listed, Indeed found.

However, there may be drawbacks.

For one, pay transparency may lower overall wages of the broader population of employees, even while raising them for the “inequitably underpaid,” Obloj and Zenger said. That’s because, data suggests, employers might push back against salary negotiations and the practice may therefore “lower employees’ relative bargaining power,” they said.

The practice might also lower worker productivity and change workers’ on-the-job priorities, the duo wrote.

‘There’s still plenty to negotiate’ beyond salary

Of course, applicants aren’t necessarily beholden to the salary or the pay range posted on a job ad, Woodruff-Santos said. Woodruff Santos said that even if there is no wiggle room in salary, they can still negotiate. For example, workers might have to pay back a signing bonus if they depart an employer before the end of a contract period; they might also have an unvested 401(k) match or restricted stock units, for which a new employer may be able to offer financial compensation, Woodruff-Santos said.

Workers may also be able to negotiate a relocation-benefit package if they must move for a new job, or a professional-development budget allowing them to attend conferences or classes to invest in their skills.

They should also generally consider other forms of compensation when applying for a job: wellness benefits like mental health services; health insurance; commuter benefits; tuition reimbursement; retirement benefits; and dependent-care flexible spending accounts, for example, Woodruff-Santos said.