Talking about money is hard. For a variety of reasons, women especially struggle with discussing finances, even though we're far more open than men about just about everything else — including our sex lives.
Yet money discussions are far more important, one could reason, than discussing that weird thing our partners do in bed.
I learned this recently. I had started practicing money transparency in my personal life after a particularly difficult year living on my own in New York. I was barely making rent on a $42,000 salary, and I was surprised. I started sharing my salary in an effort to figure out if I was just bad with money or if my peers were making significantly more than I was. It turned out to be a mix of the two, as well as a sprinkling of peers who had previously received quite a bit of cash from their parents over the years.
The importance of talking about your salary with coworkers became clear to me soon after I left my first job, when I shared with a former coworker what I had been making when I left the company. Turned out, she had been working there longer than I had, but she was making less than I had been.
We were both shocked. We had the same amount of schooling, were covering similar beats, and are both of the same race.
It was puzzling, to say the least. But this discovery led my friend to reconsider asking for a raise, especially given that I had asked for — and received — one when I was working at the company. Even though I wasn't the person who directly benefited from this discussion, per se, I learned that it's important to be transparent about your salary with your peers at work.
It's not just something that's fair to know — when you share your salary with others, you can actually help to bridge the wage gap. How? Your knowledge may help others in your workplace finally drum up the courage to ask for a raise, edging their pay closer to that of their male colleagues.
Research suggests that this isn't just good for individual workers, it can benefit companies as well. A recent study published in the Journal of Business and Psychology found a positive correlation between pay transparency and help-seeking behavior. In other words, knowing how much money their peers were making made employees want to get better at their jobs.
This is a breakthrough in industry research, according to the study's abstract, because it shifts the focus away from fairness and onto worker productivity. Translation: pay transparency is not only good for employees — it's also good for employers.