How to use pay transparency to get a raise

“So how much do you make?”

For decades, this was a deeply personal and uncomfortable question that no one wanted to answer. But pay transparency is becoming more mainstream today. Seven states already require employers to disclose salary ranges during the hiring process.

And more workers are taking matters into their own hands, too. On social media, people openly share what they do for work and how much money they make. The goal is to empower others to seek higher pay and address pay inequality, which disproportionately affects women and minorities.

One of the leading voices in this movement is Hannah Williams, a 26-year-old content creator from Alexandria, Virginia, who in April 2022 launched Salary Transparent Street, a viral TikTok series in which she asks strangers across the country how much money have make, make Her videos have reached tens of millions of people with short, lively interviews featuring teachers, nurses, data analysts and government employees, all revealing their pay. Recent videos highlighted an event planner who earns $80,000 a year. an interpreter making $43,000; a college statistics professor making $70,000; a software engineer making $191,000; a nurse anesthetist making $280,000; and a water vendor outside the White House who reported making $3,000–$4,000 a week.

READ MORE: Why the gender pay gap has persisted for two decades

But people aren’t always happy with what they learn.

“There’s a lot of anger about whether or not people deserve to make what they make and that it should be more fairly distributed,” Williams tells TIME. “I see a lot of comments asking why we pay teachers $40-50k, but software engineers $600k and CEOs even more.”

Wage gaps are also noticeable among women and people of color—another source of frustration among viewers, Williams says. A new Pew Research Center survey, published March 1, found that women earned an average of 82% of men, similar to what the pay gap was in 2002.

In less than a year since the launch of Salary Transparent Street, Williams has amassed nearly 2 million social media followers and is on track to hit $1 million in revenue thanks to brand deals and partnerships with companies like Indeed, the platform job search. The success of her brand led other social media users to share their own stories about compensation and payment. thousands of people on Reddit have posted what they’ve been making over the past few months.

Some examples from the Reddit threads include: A 23-year-old utility company apprentice who made $135,000 including overtime in Washington, DC last year. a public school teacher with 18 years of experience making $87,000 in Portland, Ore. A 35-year-old social media professional makes $65,000 in Oklahoma City. a commercial lender at a bank making $255,000 with 10 years of experience in Chicago. and a 47-year-old software development manager making $188,000 in Charlotte, NC

“Now we know who’s buying all these multi-million dollar homes,” one user posted in response to some of the six-figure salaries. “Props to them for finding that kind of work I guess, but that kind of income as ‘normal’ just seems obscene to me. No wonder we have such inequality and crazy highs [cost of living] in the USA.”

“Only the highly paid want to post, remember that,” another user commented.

Hannah Williams, a 26-year-old content creator from Alexandria, Virginia, is the founder of Salary Transparent Street, a viral TikTok series in which she asks strangers across the country how much money they make.

Courtesy of Hannah Williams

How to use pay transparency to get a raise

Open discussion about wages among peers—or even strangers—is a powerful tool in combating pay inequality, Williams says. Not only does it serve an altruistic purpose, but it puts workers in the same occupation in a better position when negotiating wages. It can also help us understand how ordinary American workers view the state of the economy.

“We hear a lot of talk about the cost of living,” says Williams. “I want to ask people about the cost of living on their salary. Do you feel fairly compensated? Are you able to make ends meet or are you living paycheck to paycheck? There are a good number of people who tell us that they are living paycheck to paycheck.”

READ MORE: How to use the new pay transparency laws to ask your boss for that raise

Williams, who quit her job as a data analyst making $115,000 to become a full-time content creator, says many people share stories about struggling to pay off student loans or not being able to find work in the field in which they have a degree.

“I’ve seen a lot of teachers leave the workforce to do other things because teaching just doesn’t pay the bills,” she says. “This is a really sad trend. the people who should be some of the highest paid in our society, like teachers and social workers, who really influence our societies and guide them in the right direction, are sometimes the worst paid.”

With demand for workers rising and the pandemic changing work culture, workers and some state and local lawmakers have begun to dismantle some of the forces that discourage open discussion about wages. Nearly two dozen states, including California, New York and Massachusetts, have banned employers from asking job applicants for salary history, tipping some leverage back to applicants. And in some industries, unionization has become a powerful tool in the fight for higher wages.

But having these conversations is much easier said than done. However, there are ways to gain confidence in your salary conversation. Williams suggests workers first do market research to see what others with the same job title are doing and also look at the cost of living in the area. Then, they shouldn’t be afraid to leverage this information to employers.

“My goal is to make people aware that they can do market research and understand how salaries are determined,” Williams says. “Once that pressure starts to build, corporate America will have no choice but to make changes. Once you talk about your salary, you can really see what those discrepancies are and highlight the fact that sometimes salaries are set based on what a recruiter thinks you should be making instead of what the structure should be compensating them for. Market Research”.

More must-reads from TIME

I am writing to Nik Popli at

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