Most men would be willing to tell female colleagues how much they earn in a bid to close the gender pay gap, Nick Clegg said as he backed a campaign for more openness.
The Deputy Prime Minister said women should "feel free" to pose the question as firms were warned they could be forced by law to reveal differences if voluntary measures failed.
"Women should feel free to ask male colleagues how much they earn in the same jobs and I'm sure most men would want to help," he told Elle magazine which is featuring the issue.
"This is a simple step which could have a big impact. But the gender pay gap is a stubborn problem, men also needed to do more of the "heavy lifting" in childcare, he said, so women were not forced to put their careers on hold.
Women and Equalities Minister Jo Swinson told the magazine that the British reluctance to talk about money "holds women back".
While being open about salaries could be uncomfortable, it could also be the "catalyst" for female workers to seek pay rises, she suggested.
There is legislation in place which could force companies to report their gender pay gap but the Government has not enacted it, preferring its voluntary Think, Act, Report scheme encouraging companies to publish as much information as possible.
But Ms Swinson said: "I would agree that while the pay gap is reducing a bit, it's not reducing enough, given that we're 40 years on from the initial legislation to say that men and women ought to be paid equally.
"I think we need to recognise that the Government does have the power to impose equal pay audits, and it may well be that if we do not see success through Think, Act, Report, that might be the only way to make this happen."
The Government did not enact plans, inherited from Labour, to make the pay audits mandatory but it has given employment tribunals the power to force employers who break equal pay laws to carry out the reviews.