I'll never forget moving into my new office after a great promotion a few years ago, while still a card-carrying member of the corporate world. While organizing my computer and files, I opened up a drawer to discover my predecessor's pay stub. And in the flick of a switch, my elation over starting a new role transformed into devastation: I was being paid considerably less, and as an extension, valued less, than my predecessor for the same role.

Human resources was swift to provide me some explanation for the discrepancy, but the response rang hollow and insubstantial to my ears. Talking about pay in hushed tones is par for the course in most companies, and this one was no exception. Changing that cultural dynamic remains challenging. My former corporate colleagues used to refer to our company as a big tanker ship that could take forever to turn around. On the other hand, startups are like sleek yachts that turn around more quickly, however, one must always be cautious that it doesn't capsize in the process.

As I build my company, I constantly envision how I want it to embody the future of work: results-oriented, collaborative, and transparent. This little yacht can only grow big by wooing the best talent from the tanker ships, so let's offer those employees a ride they'll enjoy. One way startups can differentiate and offer cultural incentives rather than just cutesy perks like Ping-Pong tables and free snacks is wage transparency.

Last week's hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment, which included a document detailing the (uncorroborated) salaries of the company's senior leadership, should be viewed as an opportunity by startups to think about pay differently. Among the 17 executives earning $1 million or more, only one among them is a woman and all but two are white. The message that sends to the rest of the company is less than reassuring.

In our culture, where salary is equated with worth, we protect our pay slips like a deep dark secret. This approach appears antiquated in our culture of oversharing. Startups have an opportunity to disrupt corporate culture. Not convinced? Here are three reasons why I recommend your startup should embrace wage transparency.

1. It kills the wage gap: Yes, the gender wage gap still exists and some data shows that it's worse in the U.S. than other countries. It wasn't that long ago when Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella suggested that women rely on karma instead of negotiating for higher pay.

2. It creates a culture of trust: When Buffer, a social sharing site, decided to make employee salaries public, résumés began flooding in. Not surprisingly, employees don't like surprises, and an atmosphere of trust goes a long way in wooing candidates.

3. It removes uncertainty: That first day in my new office after my promotion was not the only time I discovered I was being paid less than a male colleague in a similar or lesser role. The suspicion that one is unfairly paid detracts from their productivity. Be the nimble yacht and win over your passengers, or in this case new hires, with your forward-thinking vision.

Published on: Dec 5, 2014