What to Do When You Find Out Your Male Colleague Makes More Than You

The pay gap isn’t a new concept, but women tackling the issue and trying to make positive change is a growing effort. Salary satisfaction is one of the things women look most for in a job , second only to quality paid time off — it’s no wonder that women can become so upset when they learn a male colleague is paid more than them for the same work. If you’ve found yourself in this position, here is a step-by-step guide to fixing the problem in a proactive and positive way.


The moment you realize a male colleague is earning more than you can feel like a punch to the gut. You’ll be mad, and you should be. The important part is to know when and how to express that anger.

Screaming about the patriarchy is best reserved for drinks with friends or dinner with your partner — somewhere far away from the earshot of your colleagues.

As for your reaction in the office? Try to tamp down on it and hold it in à la Elsa from “Frozen.”

“Take a breath. Take a walk,” Karen Dillon, co-author of How Will You Measure Your Life? said to the Harvard Business Review . “Do not make any rash decisions. And do not confront anyone.”

2. Consider all factors and build your case

Once you’ve gotten your anger out and your friends have helped you build up your confidence by reminding you of your worth, it’s time to get to work.

    An apples-to-apples comparison of your work and results is crucial to making a point about unfairness in pay. The simple reason is this: If you’re going to claim an unfair pay discrepancy, than it actually has to be unfair. Unfortunately, in this scenario, you have the burden of proof.

    Once you’ve done your research and have determined that the gap is genuinely unfair, it’s time to bring all of that proof together. Take a detailed inventory of your work and the work of the colleague in question, and be prepared to present all of that information to your supervisor.

    It can also be helpful to keep in mind that the issue can stem beyond being paid less than a male colleague. Take into consideration the typical salary for someone in your position. Use a website like PayScale to see how your current rate of pay compares to the current market. This data could help your argument more.

    3. Approach your supervisor

    Once you have all of your information set, it’s time to schedule a conversation with your supervisor. During this conversation, it’s important to keep your cool, but you also must have confidence in what you’re asking for. You have your proof, now present it in the best way possible.

    Here are some dos and don’ts when it comes to what can often be a very difficult conversation:

    DO get to the point: Once you’re having the conversation, there is no reason to beat around the bush. Be fearless and dive right into the topic at hand.

    DO ask for what you deserve: Be assertive and let your boss know exactly what you deserve. You should also ask what needs to happen to make sure that change is implemented.

    DO consider alternative offers: If your employer can’t offer you the salary you deserve in  dollars and cents, think of other opportunities that might help. Employers may be open to offering part-time remote work or additional paid vacation time. If you’re looking for a better-paying position, InHerSight can match you with current openings .

    DON’T name the other colleague: If you can help it, it’s always best to keep that name to yourself. This isn’t an issue of one employee against another, Dillon explained to the Harvard Business Review: “This is a conversation about you, the value you bring to the company, and how you can get the money you want.”

    DON’T place blame on your boss, your company, or anyone: Pointing fingers won’t get you anywhere, and while you may know exactly where fault lies, that doesn’t matter at this point. This will only overshadow the real conversation about your value.

    Standing up for yourself and what you deserve can be one of the most difficult things you do in your career. Always remember that you’re your best advocate. Do for yourself as you would do for another in the same situation.

    By Alyssa Huntley

    Alyssa Huntley lives and works in Washington, D.C. She has written about a range of topics, from technology to real estate to women’s issues. Twitter: @alyssajhuntley Website:

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