finance

Talking about your salary could make you wealthier.

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.

average salary for women
"Discussing salary amongst colleagues, friends and even family remains largely off limits." (Image via MGM)
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Failing to challenge the taboo around discussing salary ensures we stay in the dark and often work for a lot less - and often for a very long time - than we should have been.

That’s why Agency Iceberg created the Salary Guide. The guide outlines the average salaries for different account services jobs in Melbourne and Sydney - from juniors right through to senior management. We think it’s important that individuals are informed about pay, rather than work in a company for five years before discovering their colleague has been on $10,000 more each year for the same time period – that’s $50,000.

Some additional sources to help you do your due diligence for different professions are Seek’s Annual Salary Review and the ABS.

All of this is not to say that knowing what your friends and colleagues earn means you are entitled to the same. Instead, encouraging transparency around salary would help to stamp out inequality and unfair pay.

It would encourage us to work hard while feeling assured that we’re being paid what we deserve and ambitious to achieve the salaries we know are on offer in more senior positions.

Here are the rankings for the 50 highest paid jobs in Australia for men and women.

Men:
1. Neurosurgeon $577,674
2. Ophthalmologist $552,947
3. Cardiologist $453,253
4. Plastic and reconstructive surgeon $448,530
5. Gynaecologist; obstetrician $446,507
6. Otorhinolaryngologist $445,939
7. Orthopedic surgeon $439,629
8. Urologist $433,792
9. Vascular surgeon $417,524
10. Gastroenterologist $415,192
11. Diagnostic and interventional radiologist $386,003
12. Dermatologist $383,880
13. Judge — law $381,323
14. Anaesthetist $370,492
15. Cardiothoracic surgeon $358,043
16. Surgeon — general $357,996
17. Specialist physicians — other $344,860
18. Radiation oncologist $336,994
19. Medical oncologist $322,178
20. Securities and finance dealer $320,452
21. Thoracic medicine specialist $315,444
22. Specialist physician — general medicine $315,114
23. Intensive care specialist $308,033
24. Renal medicine specialist $298,681
25. Neurologist $298,543
26. Financial investment manager $288,790
27. Investment broker $286,530
28. Paediatric surgeon $282,508
29. Clinical haematologist $271,738
30. Futures trader $264,830
31. Endocrinologist $258,972
32. Australian cricketer $257,527
33. Rheumatologist $256,933
34. Dental specialist $253,442
35. Magistrate $246,737
36. Equities analyst; investment dealer $245,826
37. Paediatrician $239,405
38. Stock exchange dealer; stockbroker $238,192
39. Psychiatrist $234,557
40. Emergency medicine specialist $232,595
41. Member of Parliament $232,093
42. Pathologist $224,378
43. Company secretary — corporate governance $218,432
44. State governor $212,652
45. Actuary $196,144
46. Sports physician $187,468
47. Petroleum engineer $185,808
48. (joint with 49) Chief executive officer $181,849
49. Executive director; managing director; public servant — secretary or deputy secretary $181,849
50. Mining production manager $179,439

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Women:
1. Judge — law $355,844
2. Neurosurgeon $323,682
3. Plastic and reconstructive surgeon $281,608
4. Futures trader $281,600
5. Vascular surgeon $271,529
6. Gynaecologist; obstetrician $264,628
7. Gastroenterologist $260,925
8. Magistrate $260,161
9. Anaesthetist $243,582
10. Ophthalmologist $217,242
11. Cardiologist $215,920
12. Urologist $213,094
13. Surgeon — general $210,796
14. Medical oncologist $208,612
15. Specialist physicians — other $207,599
16. Specialist physician — general medicine $207,225
17. Otorhinolaryngologist $200,136
18. Dermatologist $195,030
19. Diagnostic and interventional radiologist $180,695
20. Cardiothoracic surgeon $175,500
21. Paediatric surgeon $175,314
22. Endocrinologist $174,542
23. Member of Parliament $173,331
24. Rheumatologist $169,409
25. Intensive care specialist $169,369
26. Emergency medicine specialist $165,786
27. Orthopedic surgeon $159,479
28. Neurologist $155,217
29. Renal medicine specialist $155,133
30. Psychiatrist $152,437
31. Clinical haematologist $147,970
32. Paediatrician $147,347
33. Securities and finance dealer $145,208
34. Dental specialist $140,505
35. Actuary $136,819
36. Radiation oncologist $135,678
37. Financial investment manager $134,481
38. Petroleum engineer $133,315
39. Mining production manager $133,061
40. General medical practitioner $129,834
41. Thoracic medicine specialist $127,645
42. Stockbroker $124,433
43. Paving plant operator $123,281
44. Mining engineer $119,564
45. Tribunal member $119,219
46. Occupational medicine specialist; public health physician; sports physician $118,310
47. Geophysicist $117,575
48. Chief executive officer; executive director; managing director; public servant — secretary or deputy secretary $116,855
49. Engineering manager $116,732
50. Metallurgist $110,359

Anna O’Dea is the Founder and Director of recruitment firm, Agency Iceberg.