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Feb 29Liked by Matthew Barr

Coming to this late, and away from the main convo, but I absolutely echo Soraya's transparency point. As you say, brands often underpay people simply because they can. Deciding whether or not working for free is reasonable or desirable is only possible with transparency.

Transparency tells you whether the pay reflects an unavoidable or at least understandable allocation of resources, or whether people are just taking the piss (more likely to be the latter with brands of course, versus more socially minded projects).

Transparency obviously doesn't change the fact that privileged people will be better able to engage with underpaid opportunities, and shouldn't be used as an excuse not to rectify that. But putting thought into being transparent does at least start to recognise that working for free is a difficult decision, not an assumed privilege, and allows people to scrutinise your claim to require unpaid labour.

More transparency is also just good for society. It seems to me that the closer organisations get to transparent pay scales, freelance rates, client rates etc. – ideally outwardly transparent, not just internally – the better for equitable workplaces and the better for society. I get the sense that reasons for not being transparent, usually something to do with commercial competition, are at worst bogus and at best narrowly self-interested.

I'd be interested in your perspective on this from an ACM perspective (sorry if you've already posted elsewhere). Do you think there are compelling reasons not to make these things outwardly transparent?

To add a more garbled footnote: The transparency thing relates to a whole conversation about how we think about the relationship between risk and reward. On the one hand, there's this argument that founders etc. take on the initial risk and so deserve more reward. But this doesn't square with, and I think can be used to justify, asking other contributors to take on the burden of risk in the form of underpaid work once a project is up and running. Though I respect it when founders/central teams prioritise paying contributors over paying themselves – something we did with AU Editions contributors – I worry that this can be used to later justify founders taking disproportionate rewards down the road. Wouldn't a transparent, equitable, and proportionate system of pay, that scales up and down with success, be preferable?

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