Three designers with different backgrounds and job responsibilities want to make discussing salaries less taboo within Philly’s tech community.
Through the end of July, digital designers in the Philadelphia area can fill out the Philly Design Compensation Census which will eventually publish anonymous results that’ll give those in the community a better understanding of how much someone can make at different-sized companies and with a range of experience and responsibilities.
The conversation around pay continuously came up between three local designers — Lauren Hallden, the lead product designer at Stitch; Tony Nguyen, a design lead at Comcast; and Dan Singer, a UX strategist at Think Company.
(You might recognize Hallden’s name from her numerous other side projects, such as Problem Bodies, a site that fights back against body-shaming ads, or a calculator that estimates the cost of therapy after insurance, copays or other deductions.)
The three met at a La Colombe in the spring to chat about transparency in pay and decided to kick off the conversation by being open about their own salaries.
“We thought that since we were talking about transparency, we had to be transparent ourselves,” Singer said. “It felt like it was a radical thing to do.”
Hallden said she’s heard conversations about pay at local meetups and it can be a concern, especially for women, to know what to ask for and to make sure they’re not underselling themselves.
“People are looking to get a more informed viewpoint, and anything we can do to make it not feel like a mystery is great,” she said.
"Money has always been a weird, scary thing to talk about but we're trying to break down the walls there."
The trio launched the survey a few weeks ago, asking those in their network and on social media to participate. It asks the taker’s level of education, gender identity, if they are a full-time or contract worker, and what types of responsibilities come along with their title, among other questions.
Sites like Glassdoor can be a good way to get a sense of pay for an industry, but it doesn’t offer demographical information or how much experience those reporting their salaries have.
The goal of the census is ultimately for folks working in design in various capacities to see how much others doing jobs similar to them — or jobs they aspire to work in — can make across the industry.
As of Wednesday, nearly 200 people had participated, and Hallden, Nguyen and Singer are hoping to reach at least at least a hundred more to get a representative sample of the community.
So far, the results are showing some patterns they were expecting, Hallden said.
There were many cases of folks having the same job title but having very different responsibilities and range in pay. The trio also saw the pay differences between those working as designers in-house for large companies, at agencies and at startups or smaller companies.
When they close the survey, they’ll organize the data so that folks can see job titles or responsibilities and the range in salary that those positions make across the city.
Nguyen said that since launching the survey, they’ve heard words of encouragement from communities members who also wanted a way to talk about pay in tech.
“Money has always been a weird, scary thing to talk about but we’re trying to break down the walls there,” he said. “We hope more people are willing to speak about it, because I think we’re trained to think that the money we make equals our value as a human being, but money does not equate to your worth.”