Dear Career Angel: Men in my company are paid more than the women

Penny Davenport tackles the tricky question of what to do when you discover gender pay inequality in your business.

Last Updated: 28 Jun 2013

Dear Career Angel,

I recently found out that the women on my team are paid substantially less than the men in the same positons. There's no question of seniority as several new (male) recruits were started on a higher salary than their female counterparts. Should I report this to HR? I don't want to burn bridges with my managers but this is unfair.

Nat, Chiswick


Dear Nat,

Wow! In these situations the correct answer and the right answer are rarely the same thing.

There is still a gender pay gap in the UK but this is frequently explained by differences in working styles between men and women, hours worked or flexi-working, the glass ceiling and so on.

For a man and woman to be paid at different rates for exactly the same job, if this is what you suspect, is against the law according to the Equality Act of 2010.

However, be aware that your information may not be accurate and in most firms, pay information is confidential under your contract so tread carefully.

You are entitled, however, under the Act, to ask your employer to complete a pay questionnaire and resulting complaints can be taken to an Employment Tribunal.

But before you do that, consider the golden rule of business which is, 'Do not make the other person wrong'. As soon as someone feels you are not like them, not on their team, or you make them feel defensive, they will not want to work with you, for you, or buy from you.

A key factor for success in the business world is fitting in. This is not necessarily right but it is true. This does not mean you need to accept any gender pay discrimination but equally, tread carefully.

There are three practical steps I suggest. First, approach your manager before your next pay or performance review, very maturely, and mention that you would like to try and improve your pay in line with market data (not other people) and see what you personally can do to make yourself more valuable to the company and thereby increase your own pay.

Second, I would approach a trustworthy mentor or HR representation in the firm, off the record, to mention that there is chatter about gender pay discrimination and see what they suggest.

Third, as a rising female in the workplace, represent you and your kind on any relevant employee committees or focus groups, and be sure to take care of the women you manage in the future.

Some would love to see you kick up a proper storm on this issue and whilst I do not support any type of discrimination, I do believe the pragmatism usually beats radicalism.

Good Luck!

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