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‘Silicon Valley’ Illustrates Why Salary Transparency Is So Important

HBO's hit comedy, Silicon Valley, always features pitch-perfect parodies of the tech industry, but this week's episode, The Lady, focused on a topic near and dear to PayScale's heart: salary transparency. This most recent episode not only entertains, but illustrates what happens when employees don't know why their employer pays the way it does.

HBO’s hit comedy, Silicon Valley, always features pitch-perfect parodies of the tech industry, but this week’s episode, The Lady, focused on a topic near and dear to PayScale’s heart: salary transparency. This most recent episode not only entertains, but illustrates what happens when employees don’t know why their employer pays the way it does.

silicon valley

(Photo Credit: Isabella Vosmikova/HBO)

In the episode, the five-person team at Pied Piper realizes that it’s time to hire additional developers now that their first round of funding has finally come through. Their first hire is Carla Watkin (Alice Wetterlund), a no-nonsense programmer who impresses the team with her coding skills, but fights back at any attempts by uber-PC Jared (Zach Woods), the de facto head of human resources for the nascent company, to praise her based on her gender rather than her ability. Once Carla joins the team though, she further turns the gender wage gap issue on its head and illustrates the importance of salary transparency by playing mind games with two other founding developers, Gilfoyle (Martin Starr) and Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani), and leading them to believe that she is earning far more than they are.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

Carla’s pranks not only result in a hilariously uncomfortable scene in which Jared has to review the “anonymous” complaints (obviously filed by Gilfoyle and Dinesh) with her, but also in a perfect illustration of what happens when employers aren’t transparent about salary. When employees aren’t confident of how salary is calculated, insecurities and jealousy fester amongst employees. This impairs teamwork, slows productivity and keep employees focused on what others are earning instead of ways that they can become more valuable to the company.

Do You Know Why You’re Paid the Way You Are?

If this episode of Silicon Valley resonated with you, it is probably a good time to have an open and honest conversation with your manager. Employees who understand their employer’s compensation strategy tend to be more engaged and stay with their employers longer, making them more valuable employees overall. Make sure your PayScale Salary Report is up to date and bring it to the meeting – if you are paid significantly under market, you might be able to start a salary negotiation at this time as well.

There is nothing wrong with asking how salary is calculated – if anything, it shows that you are proactive and thinking about the future. If your employer has a clear compensation strategy, it can give you insight into plotting your career trajectory more effectively. If your manager indicates that there isn’t a real method to how pay is awarded at your company, then your questions might be a good indication that it’s time for the company to start developing a real compensation strategy. Good news: PayScale can help with that too!

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