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by Colette Sexton
12th Mar 2019

Colette Sexton, news correspondent at The Sunday Business Post, on why it is time to break the silence on salaries.


Many people were taught as children that it was rude to ask about money. As a result, when they grew up and started making salaries of their own, they keep quiet on the numbers, not even divulging the details with their closest family and friends.

Nearly half of all spouses don’t even know how much their other half makes, according to research done by Fidelity Insurance, and a fifth of Americans do not share their salary details with anyone. Women tend to be great for talking about important and often difficult issues with their friends, but one study found that 80 per cent of women do not discuss their finances with family and close friends.  Privacy is important, but who is this privacy protecting? Not employees, that’s for sure. Privacy about salaries protects companies.

Sharing the details

Many of you might balk at my next point, but stick with me: you should tell your friends (and in some cases your co-workers) how much you earn. Hear me out.

While you might hate the idea of sharing these financial details due to fear of embarrassment, pity or backlash, there are some major advantages to being honest. What is the worst that can happen? If you tell a co-worker what you are making and they are making less than you, then they can use that knowledge to ask for a raise. This has no negative impact on you. However, if you find out that a friend in a similar role makes more money than you do, then you can ask for a raise, and you could end up making more money. These frank discussions will give you a sense of whether you are being underpaid and undervalued in your company and if you should be asking for more money or looking for a new job.

Discussing how much you make with trusted friends and colleagues can help you to break your mental block against talking about all of your finances, not just salary, and help you to face any debt you might be trying to ignore, or start planning your finances for the future.

Plus, being honest with your friends means that you can all begin to open up and share financial tips with each other — whether that’s about the best mortgage to get or how to negotiate for a better salary. And if you can’t talk to your nearest and dearest about these matters, it is going to be very difficult to have a coherent discussion about money with your boss or bank.

The pay gap

For women in particular, talking about money is important as it is a key way to close the gender pay gap, which is currently at 14 per cent in Ireland. Some 61 per cent of women want employers to reveal the salaries of all employees for even pay, according to a 2015 Glassdoor survey but only 38 per cent of men wanted employers to share salaries to create an even playing field. While upcoming legislation in Ireland will force large companies in Ireland to reveal their gender pay gaps, it is still important for women to build up their own knowledge about salaries among their peers and in their industries.

There is a taboo around discussing salaries but women have been great at smashing through taboos over the years. So your homework for today, dear reader, is to go and find someone you trust, and have a discussion about your salaries. Knowledge is power.

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