On Equal Pay Day, I asked women how they learned they were making less than a man with the same job. A few patterns emerged, which is one of the reasons we should share stories like this in the first place.
Intentional transparency—whether you got there through shit talk, forming a union with salary minimums, or open records requests—came up a lot—and they’re also some of the most straightforward ways to identify and (sometimes) close pay gaps.
Administrative errors were also a common point of exposure, but because you can’t exactly will those into existence, you may want to read about some ways to talk to your coworkers about money.
Another common theme in your responses: women finally being forced to leave jobs despite being very good at those jobs and uniformly loved by colleagues.
Below are a few categories of how you found out. Share them, get mad, make your boss scared.
Sexist caveman bullshit
I asked for a raise, and was told no, because then I’d be making as much as the men in my department, “and they have families.” 1996.
A friend of mine found out that the men who’d been hired for the same position she was hired for were offered funds for relocating, though she and her female colleague were not (all moved across the country for the job). Their boss’s explanation was “they have families.” One of the men had children but the other other man offered moving had a wife and no kids; she had a husband and no kids. This was definitely gendered.
In another charming incident with the same boss, he told my friend that if she worked really hard, one day she might be an assistant to the CEO. She has a PhD.
Then again, this happened all the way back in...2015.
I became his manager. Got the “regional pay differences” and “he has a family” explanations.
Administrative fuck ups
Our CFO sent W2s by emailing a single PDF file containing every single W2 to everyone in the company...We all knew exactly how much everyone made.
I was solo in my department, but every other woman there made less than the men, some even less than the men they supervised. One guy made double what the girl he replaced did, despite being a complete buffoon and zero experience in the job.
Talking to other freelancers. And that time a pub accidentally emailed me a guy’s contract...
A folder with everybody’s [compensation] plans was accidentally posted on a shared folder.
Someone accidentally forwarded me a colleague’s offer letter.
Investigate the patriarchy
I checked the H-1B filings for the company I worked for... There are several searchable databases online. I personally used http://www.h1bdata.info/.
Open records request.
It was eye opening!
I no longer work there, but we were a non profit, meaning our pay was public record... and when I brought it up they were surprised I knew... but they wouldn’t do anything about it. The board of directors denied a raise, even though the executive director tried to push one through.
I was doing the jobs of 2 people bc one had already quit and I absorbed her duties being a team player and all. However, when I quit, I told the woman I knew my stuff would land on what was going on. She used it to negotiate triple salary and they complied this time, basically out of fear she would leave. I am actually thrilled for her. She is a hard worker and deserves every penny of it. Me leaving taught the board a lesson and got her a better position. It just sucks I had to leave to do that.
Got hired at a firm in Cambridge around the same time as a classmate, he was in class that evening bragging to his friends about how much he was going to get, and I realized it was 12k more than me, and I had more experience. I was at that firm a year before the economic downturn hit and they went from 45 people to 20 people in a manner of months and I was one of the first let go. I didn’t actually feel bad, because I hated it there and just wanted to make it through to graduation a few months later.
Well I don’t have a male counterpart at our company, but an adjacent department recently found out a lower level year-old hire is making TWICE what his female supervisors who’ve been around for 5-10 years are making. It happened when they were bitching about being underpaid (considering market rate for their position) and the dude in the room was like, “um, I feel like we need to discuss this because I’m not having the same feelings” and they all shared.
When the guy I was training casually mentioned what they were paying him.
My BFF was working at a place (religious-based non profit serving special needs population) and a co-worker brought her his pay stub to try to decode how much time off he’d earned. She realized he, a person w/o an advanced degree who she outranked in the org structure, was making more than she was with a Master’s in the field. The Christian-based org didn’t think women should be sole breadwinners, so they just paid women less. She noped the eff out as soon as possible.
When I moved in with my boyfriend and started managing our combined finances. We had been hired at the same job on the same date. I had more experience than him and a college degree, had better numbers and better attendance. He was making more than me.
colleague casually mentioned his salary in conversation, assuming it was the same as mine. (it was 30% more.)
When it’s your job to have the receipts
I did the payroll. :(
On top of my editing duties, I was the accounts person so paid everyone’s salaries...