Hannah Williams, a 25-year-old data analyst, has been ranking up millions of views on TikTok for her series Salary Transparent Street, in which she asks strangers in cities across America how much they earn. A surprisingly large number are willing to answer.

If a stranger holding a microphone came up to you on the street and asked you to tell your salary to millions of TikTok viewers, would you do it? As an employer, how would you feel about someone asking that question of your employees? In either case, you might be horrified. And yet, answering this question honestly and encouraging those who work for you to do the same could be a really good idea. 

As you likely know, a movement toward pay transparency is sweeping the nation as some legislators and employers seek to undo centuries of pay imbalance between men and women, and between white and non-white people of all genders. New York City, Colorado and Washington State all have voted in laws that require employers to reveal compensation information in job ads, and more pay transparency laws are likely coming. Proponents reason that the more public information is available about how much a position or contract job pays, the better equipped everyone will be to negotiate fair compensation--including those who have traditionally been paid less.

How much will pay transparency cost?

Since women currently earn, on average, 82 cents for every dollar men do, paying people equally could well mean that employers have to spend more on payroll. So it's not surprising that many employers, especially large ones, are fighting hard against pay transparency initiatives. In New York City, some business groups made a mind-boggling and convoluted argument that the new pay transparency law would force them to pay women and people of color less--deliberately ignoring a huge amount of data that shows the opposite is true.

Instead, employers should give up the fight and embrace pay transparency. Not only because transparency laws are spreading but also because pay transparency might help them retain some of their most valuable employees. In my new book, Career Self-Care, I describe discovering that a male employee who was doing the same job as I was but had much less seniority was earning substantially more. I felt like I'd been sucker punched. My first reaction was not to ask my boss or HR about it. Instead, I brushed up my resume and began going on job interviews. You may think that if you manage to keep salary information secret, lesser-paid employees will keep on working for you in blissful ignorance, but the opposite could happen. They might learn the information via a back channel, as I did, and, lacking any context or explanation, they could simply get angry and leave.

In my case, there was in fact some context and an explanation that made the pay gap a bit easier to understand. More importantly, my boss was quite ready to give me a raise in order to get me to stay. But the only reason I found that out is that, in those high-unemployment days, I didn't immediately find another job and so eventually I talked to my boss about what was troubling me. If it had happened in today's tight labor market, I'd have been out the door before we ever had that conversation.

Williams explained in an interview with CNBC.com that the inspiration for Salary Transparent Street came from frustration as she tried to research salary information during her own job hunt. Online sources weren't that much help and when she asked her friends about their salaries, they were reluctant to answer. "It really just clicked for me that these conversations need to happen outside of our friend groups," she said. She added that she wants to help end the taboo against talking about how much we make. If she succeeds, the world might just be a fairer place.