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Ask L2: My direct report makes 150% of my salary

"The new HR assistant forwarded me the recruited senior engineer's contract (which I have no doubt I was not meant to see). That is how I know that he earns 150% of my salary."

Disclaimer: Identities are kept confidential. The advice given here should be taken at your own risk. If you are having true mental or physical issues, please seek professional assistance.

I work for a biotechnology company as an engineer. I was asked to manage the senior engineer in my team but was then denied being promoted to the same position as him. I battled (hard) to be promoted to that senior position that I absolutely deserved.

I have since been promoted further into a technical leadership position. The engineering department is less than 25% female, and of 10 leadership roles, I am the only woman. When I was promoted to the role, I was told my salary would not change, and that it was a "growth opportunity" for me.

Recently, we hired a new senior engineer on my team, who reports directly to me. He has 20 years' experience and I have only four. My company has strict pay secrecy clauses in our contract, no pay bands, and no pay transparency whatsoever. The new HR assistant forwarded me the recruited senior engineer's contract (which I have no doubt I was not meant to see). That is how I know that he earns 150% of my salary.

How do I talk to my company about gender pay equity?


Here's a pretty good place to start: "Hey. It’s BS and it’s discriminatory for you to pay someone who I manage substantially more than me.”

I should preface this with something really important, though: I don’t speak corporate. Could I have a measured and professional conversation about this to voice my concerns? Sure. I’m really good at that. But would I? Probably not. That doesn’t mean that YOU shouldn’t because this is YOUR career and YOUR future.

That being said, a company that promotes you for “growth” and refuses to raise your pay is built on a house of bullshit that you shouldn’t be a part of. That’s everything I need to know about how abusive and manipulative they are. If they had the money to hire someone else at that salary, there is money to pay you what you deserve for the work you’re doing. “Growth opportunities” don’t pay your mortgage or buy you groceries.

I don’t spend a lot of time talking about fixing broken systems because I don’t know that they can be fixed. It sounds like you work for a company that is entrenched in bad and abusive practices that will ensure women are paid less and given access to fewer opportunities.

ALSO, if you’re the manager, you SHOULD be able to see his contract and his pay. That’s part of being a manager. That kind of secrecy makes me certain there is a whole lot else they are concealing, and it is unlikely that that culture is going to change quietly from within.

The place to start is probably to ask if you want to actually fix this or if you want to survive this until you can find a better environment. I can’t answer that for you, but I would be hesitant to think they will be open to change. You have my support either way.