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#Talkpay Surges as Twitter Users Fight Inequality by Revealing Own Pay

May 2, 2015 in Blogs

By Susie Cagle, The Guardian

This new hashtag is a May Day hit.

It took years for Lauren Voswinkel to find out that she was being underpaid. A software developer in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Voswinkel said it took three job switches and increasingly confident negotiations before landing at her current position and $122,000 annual salary.

“I just found myself thinking, how long have I been underpaid? How could I have prevented this? What was I missing?” said Voswinkel. “And I realized it was mostly because of a lack of conversation around pay.”

This May Day, the international day of workers, Voswinkel mounted a small protest against this taboo by encouraging people to post their job titles and salary information to Twitter with the hashtag #talkpay. Her manifesto for the project appeared earlier in the week, at Model View Culture.

“There are so many fears that speaking up at this point is a radical act,” said Voswinkel.

In a labor market as hot and homogenous as that of Silicon Valley, where some of the biggest companies colluded to suppress wages and most of the top-paid talent is white and male, #talkpay was predictably popular. Throughout the day, the hashtag held its own near the top of the US trending leaderboard, and dozens of Twitter users both inside and beyond the tech industry openly shared their past and present wage information. 

But #talkpay did not just play host to frank salary confessionals. Instead, Voswinkel sparked a more complex conversation about responsibility, equity, and strategy.

After decades of waning organized labor power and wage stagnation, issues of worker rights and discriminatory pay inequity have moved to the forefront of an ongoing national conversation about wealth inequality in America.

While websites such as Glassdoor collect anonymous salary information from current and former employees, #talkpay provided a unique platform to put that information to use, as workers compared their pay in real time and with their real identities attached to it. One contacted Voswinkel to let her know he was making more than she …read more


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