My fabulous friend Amy Kishek recently recorded a video for the Globe and Mail about her experiences with student debt. In it, Amy beautifully makes the argument that our culture of politeness surrounding student debt prevents policy changes that could help people. Basically, she contends that our stupid societal dictum that it’s not classy to discuss money is screwing people over.
It’s a highly intelligent argument, one I believe we can actually apply to other important conversations about money, including the wage gap in the Western World.
The latest statistics show that Canadian women are earning about $8000 a year less than men who do roughly equivalent jobs. The pay gap experienced by women in the Western world is typically even worse for women of colour. Being a man of colour also means you will earn less than a white man doing the same work. Basically, if you’re not a white cisgender man, you’re more likely to have money problems!
The problem with money problems is that the dominant Western cultural view is that it’s rude to talk about money. The issue is, however, that not talking about money is a norm of politeness and propriety that only benefits people who do have it. It means no one can hold them accountable.
Not talking about money means when pay discrimination happens to you, it’s that much harder to diagnose.
We are so trained to believe it’s rude to talk about the money we earn that many people go years without realizing just how much more the white guy with the exact same job as them earns.
I am by no means saying people should always in all circumstances be forced to reveal their salaries. However, the idea that money and how much of it we earn is an impolite conversation prevents us from identifying individual and systemic problems. It prevents us from coming together, realizing many of us are victims of this wage gap. It therefore prevents us from identifying potential allies in the struggle against pay discrimination.
So, I encourage you to consider sharing your salary with some people you know. Sure, it might feel awkward at first. It can be hard to deprogram ourselves from believing that theory it’s tacky to talk about money. But I firmly believe it’s worth it. Talking about money is the first step to uniting against discriminatory pay practices.
In the end, I would argue it’s not rude to talk about money – what’s really rude is to pay certain people less than cisgender white men…