The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

A travel writer tweeted her salary and reignited a trend: ‘I just want people to get paid’

The tweet started a conversation about pay transparency and how it can potentially help narrow wage gaps

(iStock/Washington Post illustration)
Placeholder while article actions load

This story has been updated.

When Victoria Walker traveled to the Caribbean this week, her plan was to unplug.

For three days, she’d relax on a beach in Saint Kitts, drinking mimosas and listening to the waves crash against the shore, in part to celebrate a new chapter in her life: The 28-year-old had left her job as a senior travel reporter for the Points Guy, joining millions of people in the “Great Resignation” sweeping the U.S. workforce. (Walker is a former employee of The Washington Post.)

On Wednesday, in the midst of her vacation, she hopped on Twitter to impart some advice for applicants vying for her old role. Ask for no less than a $115,000 salary, a signing bonus and a relocation bonus if you’re moving to New York City, where the company is based, she wrote, adding that her own salary for the job was $107,000. “I believe being transparent is one way to achieve equity in media,” she wrote.

Walker didn’t think the tweet’s impact would extend beyond the reach of people working in travel media. But almost instantly, the post went viral, reverberating across Twitter and racking up thousands of retweets and reactions from users working across the media industry.

“I was not expecting this at all,” Walker said, adding that her phone’s battery life went into overdrive, dying twice as it lit up with calls and notifications that day. “The response was so overwhelming that I was consumed by it for a couple hours. Then I went back to drinking on the beach.”

Across Twitter, supporters have called her a “hero,” a “legend,” a “queen” — praising her initiative and reigniting conversations about the ongoing push for pay transparency. “This is how you stop the cycle of companies underpaying people,” one user wrote. “Thank you for helping the next person.”

Talking about pay has long been considered taboo in American culture. But in recent years, workers and worker advocates have pushed for companies to be more transparent about disclosing their pay scales.

Hundreds of journalists anonymously reveal their salaries on viral spreadsheet, challenging workplace taboo

Others have taken this call into their own hands, posting their salaries on social media and promoting spreadsheets where users can share their pay anonymously. And after reading Walker’s tweet, some were even inspired to disclose their entire pay histories.

One person disclosed her salary history from 2009, including the cities she lived in at the time. Another shared her pay history across different jobs and roles.

On the legal front, the country has seen an emergence of state pay transparency laws. Maryland, Rhode Island and Washington require employers to disclose pay ranges to applicants upon request. Last year, Colorado instituted a law requiring employers to include compensation in job postings. And in New York City, where Walker lives, employers will soon be required to include salary ranges on job listings.

In NYC, employers will soon have to list salary ranges on job postings. It’d help close the wage gap, experts say.

Ruchika Tulshyan, author of the book “Inclusion on Purpose: An Intersectional Approach to Creating a Culture of Belonging at Work,” said she was “so happy” to see Walker’s tweet.

“It’s really great that this travel writer’s used the position she was in to make sure the next person would also get compensated fairly,” she said.

Tulshyan, an inclusion specialist who writes frequently about workplace equity, had been following discussions over pay transparency in the last week. In a separate controversial viral post last week, a freelance recruiter shared that they had offered an applicant a much lower salary than had been carved out for the role. “I offered her that because that’s what she asked for and I personally don’t have the bandwidth to give lessons on salary negotiation,” the manager wrote.

Tulshyan also noted that, while many people have become comfortable sharing more of their lives online, others are still reluctant to talk about how much money they make — no matter where they land on the pay scale.

There are a few reasons for this, experts say. U.S. companies have sometimes discouraged, prohibited or punished employees for talking about pay — even though that is illegal. One Institute for Women’s Policy Research survey found that between 2017 and 2018, nearly half of full-time workers reported they were either discouraged or prohibited from discussing wages and salaries.

Advocates for workers’ and women’s rights say that salary transparency can be an important tool to narrow wage gaps, especially along gender and racial lines. In a 2018 interview with Time, Chandra Childers, a study director at IWPR, cited the case of Lilly Ledbetter, who sued Goodyear after learning that men working the same job as her were making more money.

“She didn’t know she was being paid less so she couldn’t negotiate for higher pay — that’s more common than we might think,” Childers said.

Personal disclosures are “powerful in the moment,” said Tulshyan — and they can help chip away at a broader culture of pay secrecy. They can be especially important for people with marginalized identities, who have “more obstacles and barriers to getting paid the same amount,” she added.

But, she said, there are also limits to personal disclosures.

If the job posting doesn’t include a wage or salary range, personal disclosures — from a person who’s left the job, a hiring manager or a recruiter — can benefit some applicants. But without a blanket pay transparency policy, said Tulshyan, “not everyone is going to benefit from that.”

What’s more, conversations about pay transparency can be siloed by industry or networks. Notably, many of those who disclosed their salaries after Walker work in media.

“What would be really amazing is if more jobs posted at least a salary range,” Tulshyan said.

Amid the ongoing push for laws that would enforce this kind of transparency, efforts like Walker’s tweet offer a baseline for applicants and prospective employees who worry about lowballing themselves.

“The response was great,” Walker said. “A lot of people [are] reaching out to me saying that the tweet inspired them to go into review season, or go into wherever and ask for more money.”

“Ultimately, I want to be of service to people however I can,” she said. “I just want people to get paid.”

Loading...