After asking one simple question, Caitlin Boston had the answer she needed to make changes in her career — and consequently pay off her student loans.
According to Buzzfeed News, 35-year-old tech worker Caitlin Boston celebrated recently becoming debt-free by posting a YouTube video. The video — which features her dancing with two of her friends — describes how she paid off the substantial sum of over $200,000. In an exclusive interview with Buzzfeed News, Boston credits asking colleagues’ salaries as the key to earning a higher wage at her next job — which helped her pay off the last of her loans. Asking this question also revealed the wage gap as a woman of color.
“Ask your other peers what they make — especially your male ones. It might make you feel uncomfortable but it’s the sole reason I started making an additional 41% a year,” Boston told Buzzfeed News.
After Boston realized she was making about $20,000 less than others in her field, she “ started interviewing like crazy.” In her interview with Buzzfeed, Boston discussed how her career goals always centered around finally paying off her student debt. Like many American students, Boston’s parents took out loans to pay for her two bachelor degrees and one master’s degree; the original loans totaled $147,602 but increased to $222,817 after years of interest.
Despite her prior debt, Boston considers herself lucky to have landed a paid internship just out of college, followed by a $48,000 starting salary working at a labor union in Washington, DC. After moving to New York, her pay increased to $72,000, and later to an even higher five-figure salary after transferring from nonprofit work to a design agency. However, Buzzfeed News reported that “[Boston realized] she should be getting paid more by asking her peers if they were making over or under a certain amount.” While Boston noted that she always opted for cheap rent in an effort to keep monthly spending costs down, she concluded that a higher salary made the ultimate difference “as opposed to continuing cutting back on lifestyle spending.”
“I still ask the over/under question,” Boston told Buzzfeed News. “There’s a burden that we carry by not sharing what we’re making with each other … All that the secrecy has done is put the burden — and the shame — on the individual.”
High annual salaries are crucial for American students to have any chance to combat their student debt in a nation notorious for a “dire” student debt crisis so bad that some students are fleeing the country. Previous reporting from Business Insider’s Allana Akhtar and Hillary Hoffower shows how this crisis hurts women more than men, as it takes longer for women to pay off loans due to lower wages.
Charts published by Business Insider show the “glaring” gender wage gap, with additional discrepancies for women of color in cities. In New York and Washington, DC — the two locations mentioned by Boston in her interview— the overall gap is around $10,000.