Survey: Salary is more taboo than sex, marriage woes and STDs

Discussing how much money you earn is still a taboo, even among your closest friends. A new survey from CreditLoan found out that we are more willing to bring up our messy marriages, conniving coworkers, and declining health before we bring up salaries with our closest friends.

When CreditLoan surveyed 1,000 Americans, these employees said they were more willing to share embarrassing personal details with their closest companions before they got real about their salaries. They were more likely to discuss their cheating partner, problems at work, sex life, marriage problems, physical and mental health issues, sexually transmitted diseases, student loan debt, and the state of their finances before they talked about salaries.

In fact, less than half of men and women said they discussed their salary with friends. They were 29% more likely to discuss problems at work before they talked about salaries. Across gendered lines, women were more likely than men to openly talk to their friends about their relationship with their partners and their mental health, while men were slightly more likely to talk about salary to their friends.

Survey: Salaries are still taboo to talk about with friends

To find out how much you are being valued for your work, it helps to know what others around you are making. And that can only happen through open, sometimes uncomfortable conversations with your friends and colleagues about standards of pay. And for women, these conversations can be especially valuable, because the gender wage gap continues to persist in industries. Finding out you’re underpaid begins with knowing what you should be paid. So why don’t more women do it?

There are no exact answers, but there are theories. They could be more aware of the professional penalties they face, and that makes them unable to let down their guard — even in their personal life among their closest confidantes. When women talk about salaries the way men do, they are more likely to face a backlash. Research has found that women who use the same salary negotiation tactics as men are negatively perceived as “pushy” or “assertive.”

But when women do not talk about money, they lose the pay-transparency database that employees gain by talking to each other. That’s what TechGirls Canada founder Saadia Muzaffar found out when a male colleague told her she was making 40% less than a colleague with less experience for the same role.

When Muzaffar asked her male colleague how he knew how much she was being underpaid, he said it was because his network had told him what the standards of pay were. “He’s like, ‘Men talk about this all the time,'” she said, which she thinks is because men are “discouraged less, threatened less, with breaking rules” at work.