Addressing a Gender Pay Disconnect

The New York Times reached out to me when they needed an expert on gender wage inequality. Here is a copy of The New York Times Sunday, Oct.15, 2017 column called: “The Workologist” where I’m quoted. Enjoy.

Addressing a Gender Pay Disconnect
by Rob Walker

I recently completed a certification process in my field. This took several years and required clearing numerous hurdles. A few others in my office completed the same process. Typically, in our profession, this merits a raise.

It takes several months for a state board and other entities to process the materials and issue formal documentation. I and another woman in my office were told we would have to wait for that process to conclude before we got our raises. However, two men who finished around the same time received their raises earlier. I asked my boss directly about this and he confirmed that they had, but did not offer me any insight into what that meant for me.

To me, this seems like sexism, whether the bosses realize it or not. For some reason it was more imperative to give these guys a raise immediately, before they had their documents in hand, and less important to expedite this process for the women.

I work for a small and somewhat new company, and the bosses don’t have much formal business background. The culture is laid back and casual, and that’s part of the appeal for most people who work here. This affects the way that the office is run, and it may be relevant here. We have no human resources department. So what can I do about this? I don’t want to create a hostile environment for myself.


You started to have exactly the conversation you needed to have with your boss — then stopped before you got to the really important part. You can give it another shot; you’ll just need to plan ahead a bit.

For some strategic perspective, I checked with Dr. Patty Ann Tublin, a psychologist who is the chief executive officer of consultancy Relationship Toolbox and author of “Money Can Buy You Happiness: Secrets Women Need to Know to Get Paid What They Are Worth!” What you’re looking for, she says, isn’t a confrontation, but a conversation.

Gender pay disparity is, obviously, a real phenomenon, and you’re right to question what’s going on here. But you may not have all the relevant information about those two male employees. That’s one reason Dr. Tublin suggests steering away from focusing too much on comparisons to a specific peer.

Instead, she suggests, try an additional round of due diligence. “Go online and research what your job is worth,” she says, factoring in your specific title, your industry, and your location (along with the new certification). Then arrange a meeting with the relevant boss. Ask about your general career trajectory, given the skills you’ve acquired.

Then, without making any accusations, ask for some clarity on why your case was handled one way, and those male peers seemed to get different treatment. “Then be quiet,” Dr. Tublin says, “and see what they say.”

Perhaps the response will involve some convincing difference. If not, you could propose that your raise be made retroactive to the date you completed the certification process. If the answer is no, try something like: “Please help me understand. What is different about what’s going on for me and what happened with them?” And follow that up by pushing for specific performance-review goals (informed by your own research) that would bring you to parity.

It seems that you don’t want a more overt showdown, but if you’re left convinced that gender is the only reason you’re not being paid what you’re worth, Dr. Tublin concludes, “then at some point you need to decide whether that’s the company you want to work for.”

“Promoted,” Without a Solid Raise

I was recently “promoted.” I put that in quotes because the promotion did not include a new title, base-pay increase, or substantial change in responsibility. However, I am now eligible for an end-of-year bonus that I’m told typically averages 20 percent. That’s not chump change, but it’s not guaranteed.

Of course, many business reasons exist for deferred compensation. But I can’t help feeling that this is a raw deal. The business area I’m in has been setting new earnings records practically every quarter.

Any advice on how to reopen a conversation about base pay?


In the short term, consider simply treating this as good news: It sounds as if your employer, without prompting, has put you in a position where you are likely to make more money for doing the same work. This will put you in a better frame of mind to move forward.

Now think about what you want to happen next — in six months, or a year. Decide what, specifically, you want, and have a conversation with your manager about what you need to do to attain that goal.

Obviously you don’t want to frame the matter quite so selfishly. But it seems that your bosses value you, and your objective is to build on that — for their benefit as well as yours.

~ as posted in The New York Times

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Dr. Patty Ann