Gen Z finance expert Hannah Williams wants us all to talk openly about our salary

Gen Z finance expert Hannah Williams wants us all to talk openly about our salary

Hannah Williams is the creator and CEO of the company Salary Transparent Street.

Hannah Williams

From entering the workforce to managing finances, navigating adulthood after leaving education is the life stage many Zoomers have reached.

Social media platforms such as TikTok mean that this generation feels more confident to discuss work culture and practices which has led to a number of viral work trends such as job hopping and salary transparency.

A familiar face that may have graced your For You page about these important topics is Gen Z finance expert Hannah Williams.

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With over 1.2m followers on TikTok, the 26-year-old is the creator and CEO of the company Salary Transparent Street, with “a mission to create more financial transparency and close income disparities; particularly for women, people of colour and other minorities.”

Some of the most viral videos on Williams’s TikTok page are of her approaching members of the public on the street and asking them about their occupation and salary.

A question some might consider uncomfortable since 29 per cent of workers report they would only feel comfortable discussing salary at work with close, friendly co-workers, according to Zippia who surveyed 1,438 American workers.

This career path wasn’t exactly the plan for Williams who noted there are a “lot of twists and turns on how [she] got here,” it all began when she accepted a new job as a senior data analyst with a $90,000 salary, believing it to be a fair offer for the role.

“I didn't even negotiate my salary,” Williams told indy100.

“I just accepted the first offer they gave me. I didn't have any fuss about it and I thought I was making really good money.”

This in turn, along with feeling “super burnt out” in the role, encouraged the then-23-year-old to do some market research and after going “six pages deep” in Google searching ‘how much should a senior data analyst make in Washington DC’, Williams realised she had been underpaid about $20,000 to $25,000.

“I had vastly undervalued myself when I accepted the job offer that they gave me,” she said, and so put her research findings to the company, but they refused to give her the raise she wanted.

“So in that moment, I realised not having paid transparency and not knowing what people make had cost me $20,000,” she said and had to go find a new job.

Williams is the woman behind the popular TikTok account Salary Transparent Sheet with her fiancé James DanielsHannah Williams

Williams is not alone in her experience as a Glassdoor study in 2016 found that 68 per cent of women accept the salary they’re offered and don’t negotiate at all, compared to 52 per cent of men.

When Williams found herself at a job interview, she approached the salary expectations question differently, with confidence in her value and skills.

“So I flipped it on her and I was like ‘I know what my market rate is, but I just want to make sure that your budget is in line with my expectations. Do you mind sharing the budget with me?’”

In response, the recruiter explained that their budget is $115,000 in line with the market rate, and so when Williams was later offered the job with this salary she accepted – though she couldn’t help but think back to her experience of being undervalued in her previous position.

“I accepted and that entire experience got me $25,000 more but also cost me $25,000,” Williams noted.

“And so I couldn't really shake what had happened to me and I was like more people need to be talking about this because like I fix my situation, but I also could have been stuck there, and how do we fix this?”

That is when she created a TikTok account and posted a video sharing how much she made in every single job from the five jobs she job-hopped from and it soon racked up the views.

“I know there's a problem here. People are really interested in this [or] it wouldn't have gone viral. If people weren't curious,” Williams added and then asked herself: “How do I take this a step further?”

Williams decided “I'm gonna go on the street,” and improve pay transparency from the grassroots.

She alongside her fiancé James Daniels posted their first video on April 16 2022 asking people about their job and salary that immediately went viral – at the time of writing the video, has 5.5m views.


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“And the rest is history,” the CEO and TikTok creator quipped with a laugh.

Upon going viral, Williams continued to post popular content over the course of a “very insane” three weeks and then proceeded to quit her job to become a full-time creator, calling the decision a “no-brainer.”

“This is a huge opportunity… it's my moment and I have to take the risk and I also I didn't have too much to lose,” she said, after all at the time she was 25 with no kids and had savings behind her.

“So really everything aligned for me to take that risk. And for me, the thing that I've always wanted is to have an impact in my job and to feel like I actually am making a change and that's exactly what that was.”

Since starting Salary Transparent Street, Williams has travelled all over the country from Washington D.C., New York, Oregon, Chicago, Indiana and more as well as to Canada to find out what people are earning in their jobs.

When speaking to Williams, she had just arrived back from filming in Eugene, Oregon and also visited Corvallis, Salem and Portland in what has been her “favourite trip,” so far.

“I guess like the reason why it was the best is just because people were very open and friendly and willing to share,” she said.

Out of the 35 interviews they filmed in Oregon, Williams believes just five to six people declined to talk to her.

Something that isn’t always the case, particularly when visiting New York as the CEO described how despite the city being “a dream for us because of foot traffic.”

“It's our least successful trip, every single time we go to New York because people do not want to stop and talk to you. They see you, you know with a camera and a mic and they're like, ‘Absolutely not. Don't talk to me.’"


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As a result, New York has the lowest success rate with just one in 10 people accepting to be interviewed.

Given the number of people she has spoken to, Williams also detailed some patterns she has noticed in terms of demographics.

People below the age of 40 are more likely to share information about their salary than anyone above this age.

This reflects a Bankrate.com survey where 42 per cent of Gen Z workers, ages 18-25, and 40 per cent of millennial employees, ages 26-41, have shared their salary information with a coworker or other professional contact.

Meanwhile, women are more likely to share than men, according to Williams. White people are more likely to share than any other ethnicity.

“It’s really interesting how those demographics play out in terms of like, what people culturally believe what they've been brought up to believe all of that plays out,” Williams commented.

When looking at earnings in different job sectors, healthcare, tech trades and entrepreneurs are among the highest earners in comparison to social services, like teachers, Metro workers, and bus workers who are some of the lowest earners.

“We're not seeing people getting compensated based on how important they are to our society,” Williams said noting this as being one of “the effects of capitalism,” and part of a “ tough conversation about whether or not it should be that way” and what we can do to change it.

While some remain hesitant to share their salary publicly, others who do appear in videos sign a form beforehand to get permission to post the video.

However, occasionally participants reach out to Williams after-the-fact to request to get the video taken down as their work has discovered the clip.

“I try to remind them it's your legal right to talk about your salary, especially if you are a private employee,” she said.

Williams added that she tries to “help them out as much as [she] can so they don't get in trouble with their companies,” who use “intimidation because of greed.”

Responses to Williams’s videos clearly show more people are open to having these conversations – and that’s exactly the feedback she has received in her direct messages too.

“It's been so overwhelmingly positive basically every single day I get a DM on one of our platforms saying ‘thank you for talking about this, you gave me the courage to have to ask for what I'm here to negotiate my salary.’”

“We've definitely helped people make millions of dollars more than they were making previously,” the creator added.

Being able to reach millions of people online is something Williams credits TikTok for, and recently wrote a Teen Vogue op-ed in defence of the app, amid talk of it being banned.

The app’s ability to push Salary Transparent Street, videos onto people’s For You pages – even those who don’t follow the account – means more people have access to this key financial information.

“What's beautiful has been the ability that our videos have had with reach and how many people have seen them,” Williams said, as it has given viewers the confidence to start talking about pay with their friends, their family and at work.

“TikTok has been fundamental with that effect.”

Such is the impact, that Williams was invited to testify in a public hearing in support of the Pay Range Act.

“I represent Gen Z and workers you know, who aren't experts in this field. But we have something to say because we're the most impacted by pay transparency,” she said.

“So I think me going and speaking and having a spot in the legislation process says a lot about the power that you can have on social media, but also responsibility and making sure I fulfil my end of that.”

True to her word about salary transparency, Williams broke down her earnings as the CEO and creator of Salary Transparent Street and the structure of the company which has seen a “slow, steady and safe,” growth.

“I made $200,000 that's my annual salary that I've set. My fiancé [Daniels] who's also our cameraman, he makes $65,000.

“Then I have an executive assistant and she makes $80,000 a year and it's just the three of us full time and then I work with a lot of people part-time on like a freelance basis,” she explained.

Running a company and being in charge of the social media means for Williams the biggest challenges are “burnout and self-care.”

“I read every single comment that we get and I blog people I report comments, you know, I engage I, I comment and so it's a lot of constantly being online.”

She also noted how it’s “very difficult to deal with internet trolls,” and “hard to be exposed to it 24/7,” therefore self-care is essential and something she has had to navigate.

One of the main focuses for Salary Transparent Street is the creation of a new revolutionary database which will allow users to share and receive unparalleled access to real-time salary information from over 5,000 users across the country.

“It's live right now, but it's in this really ugly Google Spreadsheet, so we're turning it into this really beautiful product that is searchable and filterable.”

From personal experience, Williams struggled with her research to find the market rate for her job at the time.

“If you ‘search data analyst in Washington DC’, it spits back like one number, which is an average of all the data they have and then a minimum and a maximum. So it's the aggregation is not helpful there.”

She added: “The whole point of it is you can find the salary that you relate to most closely based on your own experience.

“To see how you can compare and also you can see what other people are making in different companies if you want to work there specifically to make sure that you're not going to get undervalued when it comes down to getting the offer.”

The CEO hopes this data will be “really valuable” to the community for them to use it as another source of market research and a source of data for them to use “to make sure they know what they're worth.”

With this project well underway, and continuing to reach people with her videos, Williams is enthusiastic about what the future holds for Salary Transparent Street and has an ambition to film her on-the-street videos in different countries in Europe and Asia.

Salary transparency is a global issue, for example in the UK a majority (61 per cent) of Brits feel they are not paid fairly at work, but just a quarter (24 per cent) will ask their employer for a raise in 2023, research by 1st Formations found when 2,100 UK adults were polled.

“We're just going to continue creating even better content growing on what we have now and really delivering to what our community needs are, which is more education, more information and more resources to help them advocate for themselves,” Williams concluded.

Williams’s words of wisdom

On job hopping:

“Have a strategic plan, figure out what you're looking for. And don't just hop for money because it’s clear [to employers] when you do that.”

On negotiating your salary:

“The best way to get yourself into the most successful mindset is to do your market research.”

“Make sure you're checking all these different sources of data to make sure you understand how much you're making based on your location, company size, years of experience, educational background.”

“It is also fundamental to make sure you know what your market rate is.”

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