The Street Where I Live

British by birth, New Yorker by nature.

Do You Tell Your Friends How Much You Earn?

Careers and WorkingAlexandra king1 Comment
emmanuelle alt and geraldine saglio

I'm guessing your answer is a wayward kind-of no. Up until recently, even with my closest friends in the world, with whom I talk extensively about careers, whos bosses names and office addresses and working titles I know, we still never talked explicitly about that most crucial figure, the one that dictates why we're doing all this in the first place.

Last week, while discussing some money woes I was having with one of my close friends, who is also a journalist, I found myself suddenly rather apologetically asking if she might mind sharing with me what her salary was (look at how many qualifiers it took for me to just  write that sentence- I'm not editing them out as an example of this dilemma). Though we are both in the same industry, working in a similar level of responsibility, I realised I had no real idea what a reasonable salary expectation was for jobs like ours. More than mine? Less? Much more? Much less? There's just so much secrecy about earnings! Even JOB DESCRIPTIONS in the US don't list salaries, instead hiding behind non-words like "competitive," which can, in fact, mean 30,000 dollars a year for the equivalent in hours of hard labour. Where's the transparency? Though my question to my friend initially felt painfully intimate and gauche in the extreme (are Brits maybe worse at this? I'm guessing yes) she graciously told me, and I, in turn, shared mine, and suddenly we were able to have a super useful and productive conversation about what we both wanted to ask for and achieve in our careers, and how each one of us might approach our next steps to get the kind of salary we'd like and feel we deserve. I realised then that as I move forward in my career I'll be continually relying on this kind of honest dialogue between my peers to get the clarity I need and make the best choices in the jobs I choose to pursue.

I'm not saying begin a not-so-tacit survey of your co-workers, or approach people who you barely know, but please, among good friends, perhaps over a glass of wine (just sayin) let's be honest. And I'll add that being open applies even more in industries where oft-dodgy freelancing or short term contracts prevail, and especially when you're in your late 20s and 30s- still junior, but a good decade shy of your last internship, and at the point where making a living wage is something you should not be expecting, but demanding.

So please, let's talk about it. Because of the pay gap. Because we need to normalise talking about salaries so that we can ask for the pay rises we deserve (because we're not). Because being open with our peers about what we earn helps us to gauge whether or not we're being treated fairly. Because this is essential- for ourselves and the sisterhood at large. 

Let's stick together, share our stories, and ask for more.