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Image / Agenda / Money

Meet the TikToker asking strangers how much money they make  


By Sarah Finnan
26th Jan 2024

IMDb

Meet the TikToker asking strangers how much money they make  

Would you divulge how much you earn to a stranger? One TikToker is asking people what they do and how much money they make, and surprisingly, most are happy to answer.

Money talks, but talking *about* money has always been considered taboo… or at least it was, in the past. Attitudes toward salary transparency have changed drastically in the last few years and one TikToker is tackling the topic head-on with her new series. 

Regularly seen on the streets of Washington DC with just her iPhone and her mic, Hannah Williams and her fiancé James Daniels have made a name for themselves as the couple who ask strangers how much they earn. 

Salary transparency

Part of a project called Salary Transparent Street, its aim is to promote the payment of equal salaries through open conversations. Often considered an inappropriate question to ask, Williams didn’t really expect anyone to answer her seriously… but she’s been pleasantly surprised and people are much quicker to divulge such information than she anticipated. 

Already amassing millions of views – the most popular clip racked up 13.5 million views in just four days – her videos have become somewhat of a sensation online and Williams has plans to continue the series in other locations across the US very soon. 

@salarytransparentstreet

Georgetown, Washington, D.C. ? We are seeking an official partner and sponsor to help us travel to more cities. Please email us if you support pay transparency, equal pay, and increased diversity. #salarytransparency #paytransparency #salarytransparentstreet #moneytok #careertok #washingtondc #georgetown #howmuchdoyoumake

? original sound – Salary Transparent Street

“I started posting about my unique career journey on TikTok in February, and one of my videos with my own personal salary transparency (I job-hopped five jobs over two and a half years) went viral. My followers told me they loved my transparency, and I wanted to encourage more people to be transparent as well,” Hannah told Bored Panda in an interview.

Williams herself works as a data analyst for a government contractor and earns $115,000 a year – she’s fine with you knowing that, by the way. 

“By talking with my community on my personal TikTok (@stocksandsquats), I heard people say that they thought discussing pay was illegal (myth!), and a lot didn’t know how to negotiate their salaries or conduct market research. They realised they were being underpaid,” she continued. 

Keeping your salary to yourself is detrimental, Williams maintains, pointing out that “it only benefits the corporations who can get away with paying people less than they’re due”. “Even though many people feel embarrassed or shy about their pay, we have to realise that our salaries say nothing about our value, our intelligence, or who we are as human beings, and talking about it helps a lot of people, combats the gender pay gap, improves diversity, and minimises discrimination opportunities in organisations.”

Generational differences

The videos are more than just social media fluff though; they’re indicative that there are wider changes happening and signpost a generational shift in attitude when it comes to topics such as money. 

According to a survey carried out by Bankrate.com, 42% of Gen Z workers (aged 18-25) and 40% of millennial employees (aged 26-41) have shared their salary information with a coworker or other professional contact in a similar industry. This compared to just 31% of Gen X (aged 42-57) and 19% of baby boomers (aged 58-76).

@salarytransparentstreet

Old Town, Alexandria, VA?Tell us which cities we should hit on our nationwide tour!? #salarytransparency #salarytransparentstreet #paytransparency #equalpay #closethepaygap #diversityandinclusion

? original sound – Salary Transparent Street

What prompted such financial transparency? Experts attribute that openness to catastrophic downturns that shaped younger generations’ perceptions early in their careers. Take the recession or the onset of Covid-19, for example. Those events had knock-on effects on workers’ earning potential and limited their job prospects, keeping them from buying homes. Over in the US, workers in this bracket – usually fresh out of college – were hit even harder as their student loan debt metastasised.

AnnElizabeth Konkel, an economist at the Indeed hiring lab, noted that salary transparency helps to eliminate “those asymmetric information problems that can contribute to the gender wage gap, racial wage issues and the labour market”. “At the end of the day, we do want a labour market that is fair and equitable for everybody,” she pointed out. 

Social media is another reason why younger workers might feel comfortable sharing such information as they’re more likely to “forge closer friendships with their coworkers”. 

@salarytransparentstreet

The Wharf, Washington, D.C.?#salarytransparentstreet #salarytransparency #paytransparency #equalpay #diversityandinclusion #programmanager

? original sound – Salary Transparent Street

“Younger workers are really rewriting the script here,” Bankrate.com analyst, Sarah Foster, told CNBC. “The workplace landscape is much different for these younger workers and all this is adding up to reshape the workplace environment.”

This article was originally published in August 2022.