‘You earn how much?’

Data engineer causes a stir in revealing on LinkedIn he earns $575,000 at Airbnb

‘You earn how much?’

Recently, Zach Wilson of Airbnb generated considerable buzz on LinkedIn when he posted his salary.

A tech lead and data engineer, Wilson laid out his total compensation over the past seven years at various roles, including $30,000 at Savvysherpa in 2014, $170,000 at Facebook in 2017, $365,000 at Netflix in 2018 and finally $575,000 at Airbnb.

“I think talking about compensation should be less taboo,” said Wilson in his post.

It’s obviously an impressive rise in pay over the years, but many people questioned his motive: Did he just want to gloat? To boast? To make people feel bad?

He later admitted to being insensitive to people who may be stuck in situations where they're unsatisfied with their compensation, and not providing enough details in the post.

On the other hand, Wilson also said his post “inspired people to upskill and negotiate for what they're worth” and “showed that reasonable compensation discussions can happen outside of anonymous forums.”

Read more: A U.S. recruiter Mercedes Johnson caused controversy earlier this year when she posted about lowballing a job candidate.

I think posts like that of Wilson could become more common, thanks to the power of social media, but also the increased focus on pay transparency.

P.E.I., for example, has made changes to it employment standards that will require employers operating in the province to make public their pay ranges or expected pay in job ads beginning June 1.

The amended regulations will also prevent employers from seeking pay history information from a candidate and from punishing workers who ask for data around salaries.

“Employees in today’s market have choice and they are looking for organizations that they do trust, where they feel valued, where equality and equal opportunity is the norm so these type of things just are so important for the advancement of employers today, and attracting and retaining talent,” says Liana O’Brien, vice-president benefits consulting at HUB International in Bedford, N.S.

And as part of amendments to the Employment Equity Act, federally regulated employers in Canada with more than 100 employees are now mandated to provide more detailed salary data that is made public starting in 2022.

Further, nearly eight in 10 (79 per cent) full-time employees and jobseekers want some form of pay transparency, and nearly a third (32 per cent) want total transparency, in which all employee salaries are publicized, according to a Visier study.

"Though the concept of pay transparency has been around for a while, it started gaining more momentum among legislators, advocates, younger generations, and the media over the past few years, thanks to the ease of access to compensation data on the internet," says Andrea Derler, head of research at Visier.

As much as employers and HR might have concerns about employees trumpeting their salaries, the movement to greater transparency is only growing.

To me, that’s a good thing, largely because research has shown that greater transparency can also lead to greater equity and equality.

And if employers aren’t going to do it, it may not matter -- employees like Zach Wilson are going to do it themselves.

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