Question: “I used to have the same salary as my male co-worker 'Chuck,' but I recently learned that he now makes more than I do. I have more work experience, but he gets more face time with our manager. Our boss is frequently in Chuck’s office discussing ordinary issues that everyone encounters. He seems to be her pet. In my area, I try to handle problems myself so as not to trouble her with them. Since we have exactly the same duties, I believe Chuck has been given more money simply because he’s a man. I love my job and don’t want to leave, but I feel this is wrong. What do you think is going on?” —Sherry
Answer: It’s quite possible that Chuck simply asked for a raise. Women often assume that someone will notice their good work, then bestow the appropriate reward. Men are more likely to ask for what they think they deserve.
Another possibility is that your boss has no idea what you’re doing. If you’ve been silently toiling away, without any upward communication, she could be unaware of the challenges you face and the issues you resolve.
By trying “not to trouble her,” you may be putting yourself at a political disadvantage. After all, she can’t give you credit for activities she knows nothing about.
Chuck’s frequent meetings with your manager allow him to display his problem-solving skills and discuss accomplishments. So he may make a better impression, even if he’s less capable than you are.
Before concluding that your salary gap is caused by gender discrimination, try becoming more assertive and communicative with your boss. Schedule regular appointments to talk about work, then use one of those meetings to explain why you deserve a raise.
For some tips on having a productive salary discussion, check out How to Ask for a Raise.