Career Services Trends: Pay Transparency with Gen Z


For October’s report on Career Services Trends, we will examine a spooky topic – salary transparency. But don’t let the spine-chilling fear get to you yet! We will break down Gen Z’s inclination for salary transparency and what this means for the future of employment practices. Through examining the trends surrounding pay transparency, we’ll discover that talking about pay doesn’t have to be so scary after all. 

Anyone born between 1996 and 2012 is considered part of Generation Z, the cohort of individuals following the Millennial generation. Many current college students are members of Gen Z, and as the older end of this generation begins to enter the workforce, they are creating their own trends and preferences in the professional realm. One of these trends includes discussing pay more frequently and transparently than the generations before them. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (2023), “only 15% of Gen X discuss salaries, compared to 37% of Gen Z.” 

Pay transparency refers to the practice of companies candidly communicating compensation information for employees and applicants. Salary transparency promotes fair pay practices and reduces pay inequities across gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and other identities, which is known as pay equity. One of the most noticeable results of pay transparency is the reduction of the gender wage gap, which is why some countries and states are looking to enact pay transparency legislation. 

In combination with new salary transparency legislation in some states (California, New York, and Washington, to name a few; Georgia is not amongst these states) and trending wage disclosure advocacy, pay transparency is becoming more common. Indeed’s research team, HiringLab, finds that job postings that list a salary range have nearly tripled from the February 2020 level of 18% (2023). This transparency particularly strikes a chord with Gen Z job applicants; according to Adobe’s Future Workforce Study (2023), 85% of upcoming and recent college graduates find themselves less likely to apply for a job if the salary range is not disclosed in the job posting. Some factors that contribute to wage disclosure preferences are economic uncertainty and heightened costs of living. Fewer workers will apply to jobs that do not match their salary expectations. As a result, this shared understanding of pay leads to a more streamlined offer and negotiation process for both applicants and companies. 

Whether a salary range is included in a job posting or not, job applicants should be prepared to discuss pay. You may notice that many Handshake listings provide an hourly rate or salary estimate. Being aware of salary market trends, knowing your professional worth, and having negotiation skills are invaluable in salary discussions. For information about salary negotiation, see our blog post 5 Steps to Salary Negotiation

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