Knowing What You’re Worth-What to Do if You Make Less Than a Male Co-Worker

Newsflash…it’s 2018 and women still make less then men.

Okay, it’s not news (unless it’s unconscionably egregious). See, Exhibit A, four-time Academy Award nominee Michelle Williams making a 1,000 times less than her co-star, Mark Wahlberg of Ted fame. Fun fact, they were represented by the same agency in their salary negotiations.

On average, a woman earns 79 cents for every dollar a man earns, and women’s median annual earnings are $10,800 less than men’s, according to a report released by the Senate Joint Economic Committee Democratic Staff.

While some progress has been made towards pay parity between men and women, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research estimates that it will not be reached until 2059.

That’s right. 2059. So my daughters are out of luck but maybe their daughters will have a shot at fair pay.

Before you say “there oughta be a law,” there is one, the Equal Pay Act, which was passed in 1963. 55 years ago.

There are lots of reasons on why women continue to earn less then men. Sometimes it’s blatant sexism. Other times it’s more subtle. Studies have shown that men tend to be more aggressive when negotiating their salary and women may lack the confidence to ask for what they are worth.

I’m guilty of not advocating for myself. I can honestly say I have never asked for a particular salary in any job I ever had. Only once did I talk salaries with a co-worker (she made more than me, but she had more seniority and worked more hours than I did so I dropped the issue). I never discussed salaries with any of my male co-workers, who outnumbered female co-workers in almost every job I have ever had.

Ouch. I have set a terrible example for my daughters. But as G.I. Joe used to say, “knowing is half the battle,” and I am determined to do better in the future.

Sheryl Sandberg’s groundbreaking book, Lean In, provides some great insights into the challenges women face in trying to get ahead and how women can take charge of their own careers and push forward at a time when gender bias continues to be a reality.

Enough of the facts. It’s time for some practical advice.

What should you do if you learn a male co-worker is making more than you?

First, take a deep breath and don’t freak out. It’s natural to feel frustrated and angry. You need to move past these emotions and come up with a game plan. Quickest way to prove you don’t deserve a raise? Storming into your boss’ office and demanding a raise based on something you heard around the water cooler.

Next, play devil’s advocate and see if you can come up with legitimate reasons why your male co-worker makes more than you. Does he have better credentials or more experience? Was he lured away from a competitor? Does he produce better results (bring in more clients)? Does he have seniority? Does he handle more complex projects?

If you honestly can’t come up with a legitimate reason why your male co-worker makes more money than you, the wage gap may be tied to your gender in some way.

So now what do you do?

Talk to an employment lawyer. Don’t panic. We’re not at the threatening your boss/suing the company stage yet. A lawyer can advise you on how you should handle your negotiations with your company (how to phrase your demands, what to ask for, and your chances of success if you escalate the situation beyond your company).

Next, talk to your manager. Let him know that you are aware there is a pay discrepancy between yourself and a similarly situated co-worker. Your goal here is not to make a complaint, but to get a better understanding of why there is a gap between your salary and your co-worker’s salary. Once you have this information you will know what to ask for in your next raise discussion.

Stonewalled by your boss? Escalate the issue to HR. Your HR department “should” recognize this as a potential, but significant, legal and PR issue for the company.

Still not satisfied? Consider filing a complaint with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC will request information from your employer and investigate your complaint.

Remember, you are your own best advocate. If you don’t look out for yourself, no one else will.

How comfortable are you with taking openly about pay with your co-workers? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail.

Disclaimer: This website is made available for educational purposes only as well as to give general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this website you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the publisher. The website should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Copyright © 2017-2018 by Siobhán Fitzpatrick Kratovil. All Rights Reserved.

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