Why You Should Tell Your Friends And Family How Much You Earn

Brits are woefully reluctant to talk money, but it's important to do so, even beyond a work setting.
How much do you earn?
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How much do you earn?

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Brits would rather eat chalk than talk openly about money, it seems.

When this attitude is fed from top down (consider the number of vacancies that shun listing a salary) employees are generally expected to keep hush about pay, so it’s no wonder we have so much wage inequality.

In fact, salary disparities are on the up. The Fawcett Society’s research from 2021 showed that there is a gender pay gap of 11.9%, up by 10.6% from the previous year. So for every £1 a man earns, a woman earns just 89p for the exact same job.

But could sharing our salary with friends and family – not just colleagues – help to weaken discrepancies and also make up happier?

Research shows that once underpaid salaries are adjusted, pay transparency could reduce the gender wage gap by 40%. But we’re woefully reluctant to talk money in the workplace, a tide that only recently seems to be changing, and perhaps even less inclined to share with loved ones.

However, telling your parents, siblings and friends what you earn can not only free you of expectations and responsibilities – especially as the cost of living rises – but it can equip people with the confidence to share theirs, question it, and ask more from their bosses.

Think of that episode of Friends where Rachel (a waitress) Phoebe (a masseuse) and Joey (struggling actor) are forced to open up about their inability to afford the luxuries of their well-paid peers. It’s awkward, uncomfortable and a bit of a downer to bring up, but ultimately it shows people that there are different dynamics at play and one person’s situation does not match another’s.

If you’re in the higher bracket, any reluctance to share might stem from fears about being expected to pay more socially. But, even giving a salary range, particularly when prompted, could help your pals.

Even if working in different industries, if someone knows the rough ballpark of what a managerial position pays, for example, they may be emboldened to ask for more in their own roles, or at least feel more ease discussing money with colleagues and employers, thus creating a culture of transparency.

Because, currently, our work places are failing miserably in that respect, says Francesca Lawson, one of the genius duo behind the Gender Pay Bot on Twitter – the account terrorising organisations dishing out shoddy Women’s Day tweets by posting their gender pay gaps.

“Whether it’s in a corporate environment or a social environment, we’re too nervous to talk about money” she tells HuffPost.

“We don’t want to out ourselves as being a lot wealthier than our friends and likewise, we might feel a bit insecure that people are earning more than us and we don’t want to shatter their illusions of who we think we are. Money is tied up with identity quite a lot of the time and that’s quite tricky to disentangle because it doesn’t necessarily serves us to see it that way.”

If we see ourselves beyond being vessels of varying capital, then not only are we shunning the asks of capitalism, but we are also recognising our inherent humanity and shared community.

“It’s just so ingrained within us that we need to keep our earnings to ourselves. It’s like one of the three topics you’re told to never bring up at a dinner party; money, religion and politics. But it’s important that we get over those sorts of social pressures to keep salary information secret,” says Lawson.

“If you’re not talking about it, then you don’t know where the problems lie, and you don’t have the evidence on your side to go and start challenging it. And salary discussions do pan to social relationships too because you need to be confident and comfortable in talking about things, and doing it socially can help.”

Fatima*, a 30-year-old activist from London, who used to work for a consultancy firm, says she is always honest about her pay to loved ones, and it’s been helpful for those around her.

She tells HuffPost: “I always discuss my salary with my friends/family because I feel like this secret thing is what keeps pay gaps going. This honesty helped a friend ask for a raise.

“This particular discussion was post our salary increase, so I told her my new salary and bonus. She’d gotten less. So I reminded her that she works the same as me and should speak to the leadership team to get a higher salary, which she successfully did.”

So, how do you start having these conversations?

You can simply bring up your own pay and explain your intentions with the information – this can be quite disarming and open genuine conversation.

If you’re now thinking of bringing a case for a pay rise to your work place then the first step is to approach a manager, says Lawson. You could also join a union, whose interests are with the worker, not the employer.

So, how much do you earn? Tell a loved one.

*Not her real name.

Life-Work Balance questions the status quo of work culture, its mental and physical impacts, and radically reimagines how we can change it to work for us.

HuffPost UK/ Isabella Carapella