I recently found out that a male co-worker in the same position makes considerably more than I do. What should I do? Talk to my boss? Talk to HR? Do I just shut up? What are the rules? – Michelle in Hopkinton, New Hampshire
To receive equal pay, you need to tap into your power and then leverage it to achieve parity. Prepare yourself for an open and transparent conversation about compensation, and any pertinent explanations on pay differences. The steps below will position you to gain confidence and assurance through this process.
1. Stay Cool
This situation isn’t personal, it’s business.
2. The Fault May Lie with You
In many cases, it’s not outright gender discrimination that results in less pay for women, it’s the result of not doing enough research and poor negotiating skills when the job is offered.
3. Do Some Research
Go to sites like glassdoor and find out what others in your position are making. Review the equal pay laws in your state. While most states have laws prohibiting wage discrimination based on sex, and are usually similar to the Federal Equal Pay Act, there are exceptions. This is an additional piece of information in your arsenal, but don’t depend too much on existing equal pay laws, as it’s a daunting road to pursue.
4. Talk to Co-Workers
Next, if you can, get with some co-workers and ask them straight up about their compensation. A lot of people feel very uncomfortable asking about compensation, but it’s absolutely imperative that everyone engages in an open and transparent discussion on wages. It helps and supports one another, meaning everyone wins. I’d also like to point out that the National Labor Relations Act protects employees’ rights to discuss conditions of employment and pay, regardless of your employer. So, you can’t be fired or have retribution for this. It’s absolutely a guaranteed right. Do this research offsite.
5. Self-Evaluate Your Job Performance
Do a self-evaluation of your job performance, your skills, and your experience. Then compare this with the research that you’ve done and the information that you gathered from your peers. There may be differences. Keep in mind that your male counterpart could have more direct, relevant experience; he could have some specific certifications you don’t have. Make certain that you’ve truly evaluated all the criteria.
6. Check Your Employee Manual
Look at your organization’s policies and find out where they stand on compensation equality and transparency.
7. Create a Pitch & Go See Your Boss
Now, if you’re fortunate and you work for one of the growing list of companies that are committed to pay equity, you’re going to have a much simpler discussion. Having done all your homework and your research, you’re now ready to bring this topic up. You’re not going to sit quietly and just take it. You have got to speak up for yourself. No one gets anything if you don’t ask, and you’re not going to get a break if you don’t ask for it. Go see your boss, but first create your pitch.
8. Ask, “Why the Discrepancy?” Then Listen.
Tell your boss you are aware a male co-worker is being paid substantially more than you. Your approach should be curious, not attack mode. Your boss may become defensive, but an open and interested posture will help diffuse their stance. Stop talking and listen. Don’t interrupt or challenge. Hear what they have to say. This is most important and requires emotional fortitude.
Remember point #2 above: keep in mind that sometimes the reason you are not receiving the same compensation is because you did not negotiate the best package when you were hired. This starts with you, for not doing proper salary research and articulating persuasive arguments for pay and benefits when accepting the position.
Back to your boss: Your boss might pivot and say “we’re not in a position to give you more money.” Knowing what is fair and equitable is imperative to ensuring your financial future. Quantify your value for the company. In a tight labor market, your boss knows that they might lose a valued, trained employee based on your conversation. I would recommend that you perform a job search and know what options are out there. Knowledge is power.
As you work through this process, be prepared to speak to your HR department. If the company is not willing to support pay equity, be ready to apply for those positions you found while doing your research. Actively seek a new job and negotiate better pay from the beginning this time around. A great resource is offered from the American Association of University Women (AAUW). AAUW provides in-person and online work smart workshops. It’s free and it’s focused on how to successfully negotiate salary and benefits. Taking a proactive approach is guaranteed to deliver better results, greater confidence, and empowered self-assurance to secure success.
Webinar: “Checklist for Gender Pay Equality”
Petite2Queen provides virtual mentoring to young women in life, at work, and in sales. Follow us for more practical advice you can put to use to improve your life and career.
Lynn Whitbeck is the co-founder and President of Petite2Queen. She is focused on identifying and evaluating opportunities for women at work, helping them define their personal roadmap. She dedicates herself to delivering tools and insights, embracing visualization of the big picture, and identifying and implementing the minutiae of detail. Lynn aims to share lessons learned along her journey and enable positive uplift for women.