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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Money

The Path to Six Figures: Five High-Earning Women on How They Leveled Up

There’s the corner office. The flashy job title. The premier parking spot. For as long as we’ve been working, we’ve been setting benchmarks for success—notable milestones that make it clear when we’ve officially “made it.” But since the 1980s, most people have set their sights on the same finish line: a six-figure salary. Many think of this financial achievement as a career pinnacle and a moment worth celebrating and commemorating.

However, there’s no denying that a six-figure salary isn’t what it used to be. With skyrocketing inflation and cost of living, many people on social media debate whether a six-figure income even counts as middle class these days.

Data supports that perception. Plug some digits into the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ inflation calculator and it’ll tell you that you’d need to earn $394,275.06 to have the same buying power that $100,000 got you in 1980. Even so, six figures is still considerably higher than what most people earn. According to the United States Census Bureau, the real median household income in 2022 was $74,850.

That’s likely why the six-figure milestone has remained in the collective consciousness as a professional turning point—but the road to getting there is easier for some than others.

Income inequality persists, and women have a larger uphill battle to hit the six-figure mark. While the wage gap is the slimmest it’s ever been, women still earn 15.5% less than men. Other data shows that 72% of six-figure earners are men and that, for every woman who makes at least $100,000, 2.5 men do. The wage gap is particularly enduring and severe amongst women of color.

It seems more important than ever to elevate and amplify the stories of women who have achieved the six-figure breakthrough and are proud to share a completely transparent look at their journey and their earnings. That’s exactly why the stories below came to be. 

For some of these women, hitting that notable income was a climax—a tangible culmination of their hard work that carried huge meaning not only for them personally, but also for their families. For others, it was express permission to stop stressing over finances or budgeting so carefully. And for one, the lure of a brag-worthy salary wasn’t enough to keep her from leaving that money behind to pursue other challenges and opportunities.

The women we talked to have two big things in common: they’ve hit six figures and they’re proud to talk about it. Beyond those two general similarities, their experiences are as unique as their backgrounds and careers.

We talked to a supply chain professional who prioritized purpose over profits, a marketing professional who secured a $54,000 pay increase by moving to a new job, a tax director who lives in a city where nobody “bats an eye” at six figures, a hospitality pro who navigated a major career change, and a humanitarian development professional who left behind a high-paying career in favor of entrepreneurship.

While most people are hush-hush about money, these women put it all out on the table. They talked in detail about their current earnings, how long it took them to get there, and what they’ve learned along the way.

Because when it comes to addressing the income gap and getting what you’re worth, knowledge is power. And these women? They’re here to generously and unapologetically share what they know.

Read their stories:

  • Dorothy Mashburn earns $150,000 a year as a senior executive at a medical technology company and lives in Phoenix, AZ.
  • Hailley Griffis makes $170,650 a year as the head of content at a software company and lives in Clarksville, TN.
  • Reece Soltani hit an earning peak of $180,000 before making the jump to entrepreneurship in Los Angeles.
  • Samantha Blonstein makes $240,000 plus equity as a tax director at a tech company and lives in San Francisco.
  • Shenae Simmons earns $205,000 a year as a technical support engineer at a tech company and lives abroad.

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