Gender-gap salary correction -- I should be happy, but I feel worse
December 15, 2017 11:06 PM   Subscribe

I started a new job as a senior software engineer early this year. My company did an annual review of salaries to correct for significant gender disparities. I was identified as one of a small handful of female employees whose salary was significantly below market rate, and got an automatic 25% bump. Yay! But now I'm slighted that I was lowballed by the hiring manager to begin with, and that my current manager knew for a year that my salary was low but didn't take any action to correct it until HR did.

He even had the gall to say I should be grateful to the company when he relayed the info. I'd suspected I was being paid unfairly, but didn't realize the gap was so large, and it's been stressing me out that my manager was essentially discriminating against me. Should I just accept this happy adjustment and move on?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think “just accept” isn’t quite the right way to look at it. I’d be like “I’m glad the company did the right thing in correcting their discriminatory pay practices,” and maybe consider polishing the resume and keeping an eye out for a juicier opportunity. It’s crass as hell for your manager to act that they deserve your gratitude for resolving their own legal liability.
posted by Autumnheart at 11:17 PM on December 15, 2017 [20 favorites]

I agree with Autumnheart. It’s good that they recognized their mistake but they did so to resolve their own liability and your manager has definitely told you something about the kind of human being he is. That said, it is never a good idea to trust your company to have your back on this kind of stuff.

Personally, I would start polishing up the resume and consulting a labour lawyer about pursuing back pay, at least for the period he was knowingly underpaying you. And if you do move on to another job, you now know what kind of salary to use as a negotiating point.
posted by rpfields at 11:25 PM on December 15, 2017 [6 favorites]

To be clear, I’m not saying, “You should quit now because your boss is an a-hole!” but by the same token, don’t exactly make plans to stick around long-term. The company may correct their biases on paper, but what about the managers in practice? Are they still going to lowball female hires or whatever? (Just by a more plausibly deniable amount.) Your manager should be saying, “Wow, I can’t believe we were that unfair to those employees! I need to be more on the ball about that,” not acting like you’re supposed to be grateful. I wouldn’t want to work for someone long who disparaged the value of their own team’s contributions like that .
posted by Autumnheart at 11:26 PM on December 15, 2017 [5 favorites]

I'm a female engineer who has been in engineering management for almost 30 years -- I've done a ton of hiring and salary administration both in the US as well as in other countries. That is a HUGE discrepancy. And I would be surprised if they have really brought you up to something like median market rate -- if they low-balled you to that extent for however long you have been working there, my guess is that they probably brought you to the 25th or 33rd percentile. Plus, what about back pay? If they have been under-paying you to that extent, you have lost a lot in salary and salary-related benefits like a 401k match.

You have nothing to lose by talking to a labor lawyer and/or by interviewing for other jobs. I would definitely be angry if I were in your shoes. Heck, I'm angry and I don't even know you!
posted by elmay at 5:57 AM on December 16, 2017 [23 favorites]

Did they give you retroactive pay or just say, "Oops, we'll fix that going forward."? I think in the least you are owed back pay.

I cannot tell you how to feel oir if you should just flag it and move on, but if I were in your shoes, I would be upset with the person who hired you at that rate.
posted by AugustWest at 7:49 AM on December 16, 2017

25%?!??! That's insanely huge. On the one hand, not all managers have control over your pay. I've worked places where the salaries of my reports was shared with me, but details about ranges were opaque to me. So it's possible that while your rate was waaaayyyy off, your manager didn't have perspective on this exact fact... But on the other hand, that amount is so glaringly huge that the most charitable thing I can think of is that your manager is completely clueless.

They should be grateful for you, not the other way around in this context. And you're right to be furious with the hiring manager. I'd be looking elsewhere right about now.
posted by pazazygeek at 8:27 AM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Like AugustWest my first thought on reading this was retro pay. giving you 25% more than you were making is a pretty clear acknowledgment that you were paid too little for that entire year, unless the 25% increase took you above and beyond comparable salaries of male coworkers, what are they doing about the entire time period where you were underpaid?
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 9:52 AM on December 16, 2017

In companies that have traditionally relied on your previous salary to make offers, women almost always get paid less. This goes double for companies that allow for negotiation in offers. It sucks. It is good that your company at least corrected it (somewhat).
Your manager may not have had the power to do much with your salary, either at hiring or beyond. Maybe they did, but many companies separate compensation into a central hr function that makes decisions. It’s also quite possible that your current manager never had cause to know or look into your salary until this time of year since he wasn’t the one who hired you. Still, he sounds like at best a cad for the way he delivered the adjustment and I don’t blame you for feeling angry about it.
If I were you I’d try to move on from this, but use the knowledge to a)do your own market research when you next change jobs so that you can advocate more for yourself, and b) try not to reveal your prior salary to future employers, which is at least easier now in nyc and ca where it is or is becoming illegal to ask. At least you have a company with mature enough practices to look into this sort of thing which is sadly not the norm. It’s not great, you’re right to be mad, but I think chalking it up as a lesson learned is the way to go for now.
posted by ch1x0r at 4:27 PM on December 16, 2017

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