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How salary transparency could address the gender pay gap

A push to improve pay transparency by a Toronto restaurant chain is being applauded for its efforts to not only break down the taboos of talking about personal earnings, but the possibility it could help spur gender pay equity.

Brasa Peruvian Kitchen made waves earlier in the week when the company posted on its social media accounts a document promoting insight into the salaries of all its employees, from new members all the way up to the CEO. The push towards pay transparency has been an important one that the company’s founder, Michel Falcon, said he was now in the position to achieve with multiple locations seeing success.

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“I want front-line employees to stop being seen as disposable resources in companies,” Falcon told Global News. He said prior to making the document available, he had a conversation with employees about why it was an important step. “If we’re going to call ourselves transparent organisations, we can’t leave one thing out that impacts the livelihoods of our team members – that’s pay.”

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“We spoke to them first and said ‘this is our vision to bring transparency to something that really impacts you and your livelihoods. How do you feel?’ and that could have gone left or right,” Falcon said. “Team members came to us and said this is the right thing to do.”

Aside from CEO Michel Falcon, employee names were blurred out on the Instagram post earlier this week.


Falcon said the move is meant to not only start a dialogue but also to promote growth within the company. “You have one of your peers who might be in a higher ranking position than you and you see that’s what they earn, ‘I would love to earn that for myself, what would my life look like if I earned that?’” he said.

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Vanessa Valencia Casillas began working at Brasa a little over a year ago with a starting salary of $18 an hour. Now working as an operations analyst, she’s taking home $60,000 a year. Her colleague Zufisha Hussain, who was promoted to a senior team member, is now making $20 an hour, working at one of the locations on Queen Street West.

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Hussain said the new model is still so fresh that many co-workers are still getting used to it, but both she and Valencia Castillas are fans.

Vanessa Valencia Casillas began working at Brasa Peruvian kitchen a little over a year ago, and now makes $60,000 a year as an operations analyst.

Matthew Bingley/Global News

“It sort of resolves the side conversations as to understanding who was making how much, because we are all now aware of who makes how much,” said Hussain.

Valencia Casillas said current and potential employees can clearly see where they could end up if they put the effort in. “It’s going to help the employees to build trust in the company and also to let other team members know that you can grow within the company,” she said, “you can make more money if you work hard.”

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The move has also caught the eye of Jenny Hargreaves, founder of Tellent, an organisation with a mission to connect women with the professional world. She said the transparency effort could help chip away at the gender pay gap.

“Women don’t tend to negotiate starting salaries as often or as vigorously as men, especially moms, women of colour, women who have had a career break,” she said. “When they’re looking at salaries, they start looking lower even when they’re coming into a new job or new opportunity.”

“Having the transparency means that they don’t have to guess, they can see what the salary is from the get-go and that pressure to negotiate is not there,” Hargreaves said.

She wants more businesses to consider taking a page out of Brasa Peruvian Kitchen’s book.

“I would recommend women immediately go look at those companies as a great place to work,” said Hargreaves, “because you know they’re already starting to get behind culture shift and a culture change that puts inclusion right at the top.”


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