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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.



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Kerry Lovegrove
Kerry Lovegrove
Sep 20, 2023

There is also a large experience gap. The writer has only 4 years, but has management skills.

A manager does not always make more than skilled tech. He has 20 years.

This may not be gender bias.

amanda H
amanda H
Sep 21, 2023
Replying to

Promoting someone for their "own growth" and no salary increase is definitely gender bias. In this case, the writer is not being compensated for their management skills.

I would agree that you can sometimes find managers who hire tech at a higher salary than themselves, but this is not one of those cases.


Kathy Holman
Kathy Holman
Mar 08, 2023

Let's start with, if this company is based in the US, they're breaking the law by being so secretive about pay.

If they're not US based, find out if this practice is legal in the country they're based because it doesn't feel right.

If you want to pursue this conversation, you start with transparency.

Hey, I received this email and, based on the no pay transparency policy it appears to have been a mistake. However, I see that this person is being paid one and a half times as much as me and this concerns me. I'd like to discuss pay transparency and pay equity with you.

FYI, pursuing this will mean you won't be able to keep your job…


Amber Hammes
Amber Hammes
Mar 08, 2023

I am not an attorney but I believe this company is behaving illegally, and you should hire an attorney that specializes in employment law. You should also leave the company for someplace better, but file a discrimination complaint for yourself and all other women out there in the same situation with their companies. If you have the means, make an example of them for their terrible behavior. 🔥🔥🔥

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