It’s hard to ask how much a person makes. Our society has drilled into our brains that it’s taboo to disclose your salary to your coworkers, friends, or random strangers. But the plight of the worker has evolved over the past decade, alongside social media and the world wide web.
Starting in the spring of 2021, U.S. workers started to resign from their jobs en masse amidst the turmoil of the economy and the pandemic. The Great Resignation has ignited a labor movement in the country, with workers at large retailers like Amazon and Starbucks starting to unionize.
With conversations around salaries starting to normalize, one TikTok account is taking it to the front lines.
Salary Transparent Street is a TikTok account with over 670,000 followers created and starring Hannah Williams. The 25-year-old’s videos are all fairly similar and simple: wearing a branded shirt, she walks around with a microphone asking strangers what they do, how much they make, and if they have any career advice.
@salarytransparentstreet Washington, D.C.📍Get even more salaries from our What Do You Do? IG story series! 💚 #salarytransparency #salarytransparentstreet #paytransparency #equalpay #closethepaygap #diversityandinclusion ♬ original sound – Salary Transparent Street
“I was really inspired by the Great Resignation, which I played a part in as well,” Williams told Passionfruit. “I realized that if I went on the street and I tried to get as many people as I could to get in on this conversation with me, that we could have some real positive impact there.”
Williams’ videos, which she started posting in early April, immediately caught the attention of viewers (and the algorithm). Each of the videos on her channel has pulled in over a million views apiece and the hashtag #salarytransparency has over 135 million views. With just a microphone in hand, she demystifies the salaries of teachers, lawyers, and roofers in videos that are highly addictive.
When Williams arrives on the scene, she’ll approach people and ask them if they’d be comfortable appearing in one of her videos. She has them sign a waiver, while her fiancé holds the camera. The pair go out to places with people, like parks and farmer’s markets, whenever the weather permits.
But she didn’t always want to talk to strangers about their income.
Williams graduated from Northern Virginia Community College and then Georgetown University in 2019 with a degree in management. Feeling “directionless” she said, she worked five jobs over the next three years including a “terrible telemarketing sales role” for $40,000 a year and an entry level data analytics job for the government. She recently left her most recent role, which earned her $115,000 annually, to be an influencer full-time.
While fumbling around the worker bee economy, Williams started her first account, Stocks and Squats, in 2020 but didn’t start posting regularly until January 2022. It was a way for her to discuss her weight loss and financial journey to an audience of 40,000 followers.
“I was very transparent about my salaries and how much I made and then how job-hopping had helped me increase my salary up to six figures before I was even 24 years old,” Williams said. “I got a lot of feedback from people telling me that they really appreciated how transparent I was and how it helped them.”
One day, Williams decided to run an Instagram poll and ask her audience if they’d be interested in videos of her asking random people how much they made. Only 80 people responded, but the desire for that content was clearly there. So, she went to Fiverr, got a $30 logo made, printed it on a t-shirt for $20, and went to the streets.
“I wanted to make sure that when I approached people that they understood what the mission was, that I wasn’t just some rando going up to them and trying to get them on my TikTok channel,” Williams said. “I wanted to be more official than that and give myself some credibility.”
This account has been a calling for Williams, who says she is heavily inspired by the greater labor movement and the Great Resignation.
“I was one of those people that quit my job when I was unhappy,” Williams said. “And so I knew that there was power in numbers, and I knew that there was a lot of power when a lot of people kind of come on board with a certain idea.”
Since the entire world feels like it changed over the past two years, the desire to do more than work has grown. Companies have been underpaying workers for millennia, and the only way to combat the issue is to provide openly available salary information. That’s where Williams gets the drive to interview strangers, even though she considers herself introverted.
“A lot of people now are tired of corporate taking advantage of us,” Williams said. “We want to really take control over our lives and our happiness again.”
Unlike a lot of influencers who merely want to sell merch and sponsorship deals, Williams wants to change the world. Williams releases a weekly newsletter with career advice and workplace resources to help teach struggling capitalists. She’s planning on taking her questions on the road, filming in different cities around the country, with her fiancé this summer.
“I think that my overall goal is to pressure corporate America into hopping on board this train,” Williams said.
A previous version of this post misspelled Salary Transparent Street as Salary Transparency Street. This post has been updated with the correct name.