The ABBA reunion and what it taught me about openness around money
Pay transparency is good for women!
Last week I was at the BIG ABBA ANNOUNCEMENT in East London.
There was a lot of secrecy around it. The big NEWS turned out to be the reunion of the band.
The first ABBA album in 40 years!
- Well, ABBA really didn’t take questions from the press.
- What questions did they take?
- A lot of them were sent in by fans.
- Like what?
- Oh, you know, generic things like: “What is the best thing about having been in ABBA”?
- What did they answer!?
I searched my memory.
- I think Benny said it was the money.
This SHOCKED my husband.
- Benny said WHAT?!
- Benny said that the best thing about having been in ABBA was the money.
THEN I suddenly realised why my (English) husband was getting so pale.
We had just run into one of the differences in cultural etiquette around how to talk about money.
I am Swedish as is (famously!) ABBA. I know that when Benny Andersson says that the best thing about having been in ABBA was the money he is simply saying that it was great to earn so much money from the music.
He is NOT saying that he was only in it for the money.
He is NOT saying that he doesn’t value his best friend Björn (who is still sitting beside him after 40 years) or the rest of the band.
He is NOT saying that he doesn’t see music as a form of art (the guy has spent every day of the last 50 years writing music!).
He is just answering a question. Simply saying that earning money from your passion when you are young is a wonderful thing that has given him fantastic security as an artist.
Then he gets up. Goes home. And doesn’t think about it much more.
My husband on the other hand: IS STILL THINKING ABOUT IT!
I have lived long enough in the UK to realise that in this country (and many others) conversations about money are CHARGED in a whole different way.
A few years ago I wrote about it (in the Financial Times) in connection with gender equality .
The UK government had just forced the BBC to reveal the salaries of its top presenters. There was a big HULLABALLOO around it.
Because the men were earning so much more.
Because many Britons think that what someone earns is not information that belongs in the public realm.
The actress Kate Winslet even went on record saying “it seems quite a strange thing to be discussing out in the open like that.”
Scandinavia couldn’t be more different.
Every year Sweden, Finland and Norway publish everyone’s income tax returns. If you want to know what your neighbour or your colleague earns you just call the tax authorities: AND THEY WILL TELL YOU!
Then you hang up and get on with your life.
The practice dates back to the 18th century.
Even though it wasn’t set up with gender equality in mind, it does help with it. Your employer knows that you can easily find out what the guy next to you is making. Pay transparency raises awareness of discrimination and makes it easier to enforce equal pay.
YES to more of that!
And YES to more open conversations about salaries!
* plays Benny’s intro to “Money, money, money” on piano*
Ps. This is a really great song isn’t it?