Climb the Ladder

How Do I Handle a Pay Gap With My Company?

Women earn less than men in almost every occupation.

Even if you account for differences between men and women’s occupations, marital status, college major, hours worked and other criteria, women still earn about 7% less than men in their first year post-graduation, according to an analysis by the nonprofit American Association of University Women. Ten years after college, that gap jumps to 12%.

A recent McKinsey report shared that more women are working in senior positions, but it is still difficult for women to move up from entry-level jobs into higher roles: “For every 100 men promoted and hired to manager, only 72 women are promoted and hired,” the report said, which affects the number of women being promoted to higher positions in the corporate pipeline.

What’s more, is that fewer women being promoted directly affects the number of women in leadership roles and the c-suite, which leads to less-diverse corporate cultures and a wider pay gap over the course of a woman’s career.

It’s difficult to point to a single root factor for the gender wage disparity, be it gender biases, lack of representation and diversity in leadership, or simply the leap to overcome societal “norms,” and many of the reasons for the gender wage gap are out of an individual employees control. 

There are, however, several tools women can leverage to assure their pay is equal to that of their male counterparts. 

Ask, ask, ask

According to a study by Zoro, although more than half of employees said they were somewhat or slightly comfortable asking for a raise, 12 percent said they were not at all comfortable, and women were twice as likely as men to report a total lack of comfort.

Even if you believe your work to be outstanding and noticeable by management, if you haven’t gotten an annual raise or feel as though you’re not making as much as you deserve, it’s important to remember that those who ask, get. So whether you feel completely comfortable having a conversation about compensation with your manager or you’d definitely rather not, it’s important to the resources at your disposal so you can feel confident having an open, face-to-face talk about wage equity and/or negotiating a raise.

Back it up… with science!

There are two approaches you should take when backing up your request for more money from your manager: internal data and external. 


“Ask your manager how pay ranges are determined — do they have explicit “pay bands” that everyone at a given level would fall into? If so, where are you in your current band? If you’re asking for a promotion, what band should you fall into if they give it to you?

If they don’t use pay bands, ask them where your position falls relative to others in the company.”

If you’re able to, also try to quantify the work you do for your company, You may or may not be directly responsible for bringing in revenue, but you should be able to show how you position adds value to the company and how you’ve either take on more responsibility, gotten better at what you do, or have increase the value you contribute. 


There are plenty of external resources at your fingertips to use for researching the average pay for someone in your position, location, at your company type, with your level of experience, and training. If you work for a university or a public company, some of the salaries are going to be public information. Or, there may be an association for your particular industry that offers surveys about salaries. One can also have conversations with peers and network to compare the salary they had when in a similar position as you. These could be past coworkers, mentors, and connections made at events or even LinkedIn. 

Ellevest shares that a good way to start those conversations could sound like this:

“I was wondering if you might be open to talking about salaries with me. Can I tell you how much I make, and you can let me know if you think that sounds reasonable for our industry?”

Learn about the equal pay act

This act prohibits employers from paying women less than their male counterparts when they have the same amount of experience. If you believe you’re being discriminated against based on age, gender, or disability, the best thing to do is to contact the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EOCC).

Seek a solution

If you do find a pay disparity between you and your coworkers, it may be tempting to have a talk with your manager that focuses more on the injustice of the situation rather than finding a solution. That’s not to say your frustrations aren’t justified. But at the end of the day, your goal is to close the pay gap, and that doesn’t happen without finding a solution. 

Krawcheck, co-founder and CEO of women’s investment platform Ellevest, advises that when you approach your boss, you should view the process as a collaboration. “I found what works for me to be fact-based, unemotional,” she says. “Approach it as a collaborative problem to be solved. Because if you are not paid what you should be, the company risks losing you.”

Negotiate for More Responsibility

You may feel as though you’re being overlooked for a lot of big projects at work. If that’s the case, instead of asking for a raise right away, you could try asking for more responsibility. Ask to be put on the teams that are doing bigger projects, or to do an additional project on your own. Ask about training opportunities, and, if not, try taking an outside course or workshops to gain more skills and knowledge.

Remember, you can negotiate more than your salary

Compensation packages are made up of many different components and what was once a priority when you started working at your company, may not be as much of a priority, now. Even if your boss says he or she is unable to raise your salary, there are other benefits you can negotiate that have monetary value. More stock in the company, additional healthcare coverage, paid time off, commuter benefits, educational benefits, gym memberships, and more. Decide which benefits would be the most important and be ready to bring them up when you speak with your managers. 

Consider Your Options

If, after doing your research and having a face-to-face conversation with your employer, you’re still not getting the raise you deserve or other forms of compensation such as extra vacation time, bonuses, etc., it may be time to start considering other options. There are other companies that will value your experience and skills and be willing to pay you the salary you truly deserve. 

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