Pay transparency is coming to NYC–here’s what that means for marketers

Starting in May, companies hiring in the city will have to provide salary ranges on job listings.
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Francis Scialabba

· 5 min read

It won’t be long before New York City salaries are as clear as that one car from SpongeBob.

Starting May 15, nearly all New York City job listings must include a salary range, per a December City Council decision, although it’s unclear if it applies to remote positions. It’s the latest move in the US to increase pay transparency, following similar decisions in states like California, Maryland, and Colorado.

Right now, New Yorkers wanting to get a sense of what others make mostly depends on their willingness to share. Salaries in the marketing, advertising, and media industries are famously murky, spurring documents like the Real Agency Salary spreadsheet and Content Marketing Salary Report to crop up, allowing people to anonymously compare and submit their salaries. Crowdsourcing also happens on sites like Reddit and Glassdoor, and, if you’re lucky, among coworkers.

But much of that could soon change thanks to the new law, and experts say it could have implications on the marketing industry outside NYC, too.

Leveling the playing field

Celeste Bell, EVP and head of HR at Deutsch NY, called it “the first step to real equality.” Glassdoor’s career trends expert Allison Sullivan agreed, telling Marketing Brew that “salary transparency is an important tool in closing pay gaps and ensuring equal pay for equal work.”

And the data backs it up: One forthcoming study in the journal Nature Human Behaviour looked at 100,000 academics in the US over 14 years throughout eight states and found the gender pay gap fell by up to 45% in organizations with pay transparency. Without action, The New York Times writes that it will take until 2059 to close the wage gap for white women, and until at least 2121 for Black and Hispanic women.

Given that we’re in a period of employee empowerment, Simon Fenwick, EVP of talent, equity, and inclusion at the 4A’s, told us that now is a great time for agencies to tighten up their retention and recruitment plans. “I think there’s a real opportunity with the transparency law for agencies to really coalesce around consistency and pay,” he said.

This is especially true as employees become aware of what they’re making in comparison to others. “I think that specifically for women, for people of color, for folks that, historically, have been making less, it’s gonna be eye-opening for them,” Bell said. “I imagine that employees will be looking at their own job boards, comparing against where they are, and they’ll be looking at competitor job boards.”

Tech startup Elpha previously took matters into its own hands, developing a salary database to help women identify pay disparities. Lani Assaf, Elpha’s marketing lead, agreed that the timing of this decision is noteworthy. “There’s a real synergy there between the fact that employers are desperate for talent, and at the same time, we’re moving towards this more transparent pay approach,” she said.

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According to Bell, Deutsch NY is already gearing up for change, as it currently posts LinkedIn ballpark ranges on job listings and discloses salaries during screening calls. She added that the agency is looking not just at salaries, but also at compensation packages, to remain competitive. “We want to make sure that there are no surprises, that we’re in line with where we should be,” she said.

Rocky Mountain lows?

But some fear the law could remove New York job opportunities. “I find those reluctant to be more transparent will look to hire remote workers outside of the state, so I feel it would be a talent drain for New York City,” said Adam Warburton, VP of talent and people operations at Workreduce, which provides short-term staffing for agencies and brands.

Warburton said Workreduce has grown its headcount by 32% in the last six months, leading to questions of whether companies will also look to outsource labor in place of salaried employees. If they don’t, Warburton said some may change or limit where salaried positions are based to avoid disclosing how much the job pays.

In Colorado, where salary ranges in job listings became mandatory last year, companies like Spotify have been called out for excluding applicants from the state (e.g., this listing for a marketing manager position, which claims it’s “not eligible” to be performed in Colorado). The same exclusions can be found in listings for marketing positions at companies like Vice Media, Nike, and e-learning platform Stride.

But given the size of New York City’s job market, especially in the marketing industry, others argue it will be harder to exclude people from the five boroughs from applying. “I think it’s too big,” Fenwick said. “And I think [that’s] sort of cutting off your nose to spite your face to get around one challenge.”

A remote marketing manager listing for Cardinal Health in Iowa City, Iowa, shows what future listings could look like for New York-based positions, stating, “The Colorado Department of Labor requires all employers to provide the following information for all positions that could be performed in the state of Colorado,” followed by a salary range of $67,000–$104,000.

Even with potential loopholes, Warburton said the new law is a “move in the right direction” from a diversity, equity, and inclusion perspective. “I definitely see this as an emerging trend across the private sector,” he said. “It’s definitely time right now.”

As for the people who might argue that pay transparency conflicts with pay-for-performance? Assaf said they’re not mutually exclusive. “You can still have raises and pay associated with successful performance of the company for everyone,” she said. “It’s just about being transparent about how that works.”

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