April 28, 2015 — Every year on Equal Pay Day, Catalyst blogs about the frustratingly persistent gender pay gap. This year, we decided to go beyond the numbers and ask real women to share their stories of pay inequity in their own words. We included two such stories on our blog last week; below are two more. We are sorry to say there are more to come.
For these women and thousands like them, the gender pay gap is not a talking point; it’s a real problem that has profoundly affected their lives.
Several years ago I was working for a large bank. At the end of the year my manager handed me a letter with some information about my annual bonus. The bonus was much higher than I was expecting, so I was pretty excited—until I took a closer look and noticed the letter was intended not for me, but for Ryan, a male colleague.
I said I thought I'd been given Ryan's letter by mistake, and my manager said I was right and quickly handed me a different letter with my name on it. The annual bonus specified in Ryan's letter was significantly higher than my own, despite the fact that we had started the same job at the same time and had the same degrees and comparable levels of experience (in fact I think Ryan was younger and less experienced than I was). I didn't make a big deal out of it in part because I was being paid well in general, but it really bugged me at the time and I still think about it today.
--Beth*, Former banker, Brooklyn, NY
Inequality Starts Small
When I was a post doc, I had a male colleague who started at the same time as I did. After we completed our fellowships, we discussed our pay. I told him about how at my one-year review, I went to our boss and asked for a raise, arguing for it just like I'd been advised to do, with specific examples and data to back me up, and even asked for a specific amount (I knew better than to just say, “I deserve a raise"). My presentation went well and I got the raise.
When I finished telling him my story, my colleague looked at me blankly and said he’d gone to see our boss after only six months. He just went right in, asked for—and got—a raise.
This is exactly how the wage gap starts: as a small gap, which appears after maybe six months, then grows and grows in each subsequent job. When women start off just a little bit unequal—paid less from the beginning due to a series of small slights and missed opportunities—the gap widens and compounds over time.
—Carol Lynn George, PhD, Founder & CEO of www.32atps.com, San Diego, CA
*Name changed at subject’s request
Stay tuned for more stories from women who’ve experienced pay inequity firsthand; we’ll be sharing them in installments.
How has the pay gap affected you? Please share your experiences in the space below!