blank board

Show The Salary: A campaign about power

By Michelle Man and the Show The Salary campaign 26 January 2021 4 minute read

In this blog, NPC Senior Consultant, Michelle Man, outlines one step that all charities and funders can take to redress power imbalances in the charity sector. You can reach Michelle at or @MichelleLKMan. With thanks to the Show The Salary campaign for their contributions to this blog. The people behind Show The Salary choose to remain anonymous because the campaign isn’t about individuals but about amplifying the voices of those affected by salary secrecy.

The charity sector has a diversity issue and it is undermining our impact. The moral case for greater diversity, equity and inclusion in our sector is clear. It is part and parcel of our commitment to social justice. There is also good evidence behind the business case—diverse teams are more creative, smarter, healthier and less biased.

Yet our sector shows little progress. At NPC, we are making efforts to improve our inclusivity while supporting others to do the same. But we are grappling with the same uncertainties as many others in the sector and we know we still have a huge amount to do ourselves.

An enabler of inequality

Tackling this is hard because issues like unconscious biases, imbalances of power and privilege, and pay disparities are layered and complex. However, there is one basic enabler of inequities that organisations can tackle right now—jobs adverts being published without transparent salaries.

Show The Salary explains how salary secrecy is a discriminatory practice that perpetuates pay gaps—hitting women and Black candidates the hardest. Hiding salaries prevents people from applying for roles and it means that people often cannot access a fair wage when it comes to salary negotiations. For example, women who attempt to negotiate their pay are less likely to be successful than their male counterparts.

When organisations hide salaries on job adverts, a candidate’s previous salary is often taken into account—yet evidence shows that when asking for a candidates current or previous salary was banned, pay increased for Black candidates by 13% and for women by 8%. Alongside this evidence, Show The Salary has been collating personal stories from those affected by salary secrecy:

In my first leadership role the salary wasn’t advertised. I was offered a rate which turned out to be £10,000 (or 20%) below the bottom of the salary band for the role. In 2 years, I got to the bottom of the salary band. My (older, white and male) peer in fundraising was paid nearly 50% more than I was.

Show The Salary is a campaign for equity, fairness and inclusion

Show The Salary was created in response to the lack of action being taken to address pay gaps in the charity sector. At the heart of the campaign is a commitment to fairness and equity, and to the people with lived experience of the impact of salary secrecy.

Since September 2020, 150 organisations have signed the Show The Salary pledge—including charities, membership bodies, recruitment agencies and sector partners. Others are also engaging with the campaign, such as Charity Job, the sector’s largest job site. It recently announced that it will only advertise roles that show the salary, following conversations with the campaign.

Show The Salary is about power and privilege

Show The Salary has achieved substantial progress in a short space of time. However, the experience of the campaign has highlighted how this is not only about fairness and inclusion. It is about power and privilege in our sector. This is evident in several ways.

The withholding of information creates power inequalities, before even getting into the power dynamics around people having to ask for extra information. Many applicants assume that if a salary is not stated, it will be based on negotiation, where we know people from particular groups come off worse. People who do not see themselves represented in current leadership roles—such as women and people of colour—are also more likely to feel imposter syndrome. Show The Salary has kickstarted a growing movement of organisations who have pledged to address these power imbalances by being transparent and upfront about job roles.

Power dynamics can prevent individuals from creating change within their organisations. When an organisation does not share power at the recruitment stage, this dynamic can continue into the workplace. Organisations may lack transparency internally on pay for existing roles and Show The Salary says it is often an organisation’s own staff that alert them to salary secrecy or other unfair practices. This suggests a lack of confidence or power to raise issues and create change within their own organisations.

Support for this campaign is therefore required from all levels within an organisation. Salary secrecy undermines organisational impact and effectiveness in many ways. For example, it prevents organisations from recruiting the best people and it can have implications for beneficiaries—how can a charity be trusted to share power with its service users when it doesn’t share power within its organisation? It is crucial that people at all levels engage with this campaign—from those at the start of their career, through to those in senior leadership roles and on the board. This has been vital to the success of the campaign so far.

Salary secrecy can be higher for executive roles, where arguably it is more important that potential candidates are not excluded. Show The Salary says they see a wide range of roles being advertised without a salary, but typically director and CEO level roles are less likely to disclose the salary or a salary range. Some recruitment agencies point to negative press about executive pay in the charity sector as a justification for this—but this promotes the avoidance of scrutiny from outside the sector in exchange for directly contributing to inequity on the inside. Our sector needs to engage with, rather than avoid, debates about whether people should be paid fairly.

How can you help?

Disclosing salaries on job adverts is one small but effective change that all organisations can make to help close pay gaps and start to tackle issues of power and privilege in our sector.

Here are four more ways you can support the campaign:

  • Sign the charity pledge or become a sector partner.
  • Share your stories with Show The Salary.
  • Share the campaign with senior managers and boards, so that they can understand how this is affecting their organisation.
  • Rebalance power within your organisation: Consider how you share power internally; how responsibility for equity, fairness and inclusion is shared; and how you could share, build and wield power in new ways to create change. For more information on the wider role of power dynamics in the charity sector, read this NPC report.

NPC has signed the Show The Salary pledge and we are proud to be a part of this sector-wide movement.

Salary secrecy is a discriminatory practice that hits women and Black candidates the hardest. @ShowTheSalary is redressing power imbalances in the charity sector by campaigning for salaries on all job ads: Click To Tweet