Don’t ask people older than you their age. Don’t ask someone who they voted for. And don’t ever ask anyone how much they earn.
We’re taught these social conventions from a very early age. But what does avoiding discussing salary achieve other than slowing professional progress?
While huge strides have been made in many aspects of workplace customs and culture – think paid parental leave, flexible hours, job sharing and salary sacrifice for benefits – discussing salary amongst colleagues, friends and even family remains largely off limits and thought of as unprofessional when brought up.
In a time when it’s not at all unusual to read articles in mainstream newspapers and magazines that analyse women’s bodies and include intimate details of people’s marriages, it’s still a social faux pas to discuss something as common as what you earn.
But what if talking about salary meant you could earn more?
Think about it, if you don’t know how much a role typically pays or what colleagues in the same role are earning, how do you know how much to ask for when first starting out or asking for a pay rise? How do you know if you’re being offered a fair deal or being taken advantage of?
Last year, Australian Tax Data published a study which listed the 50 highest paid jobs in Australia for men and women respectively and the average salary for these roles. (Check out the rankings below).
Many women were shocked to learn not only of the huge discrepancies between what men in the same roles were taking home, but that they were also earning much less than their female counterparts.
Now I know the majority of us don’t work in the top 50 paying jobs, but the point is that without talking about our salaries, how can we educate ourselves to ensure we’re being remunerated fairly? Wait for a list to come out every few years and hope that our profession is listed?
Studies have found that women typically ask for the salary they think they’re worth, whereas men tend to ask for the salary they want. If women had a better idea of what their peers were taking home, perhaps they’d feel more confident asking for the same, rather than remaining in the dark and undervaluing themselves as a result.
I’m not suggesting we all start posting our salaries to social media or that we should feel compelled to fess up to anyone who asks what we earn, but being transparent about our salary in appropriate professional situations (even just in ballpark terms), can be incredibly positive and constructive.