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    17 Women Shared How They Found Out They Were Underpaid And It's So Important

    "I was asked to hand out the pay slips at work and realized my boss had given every woman one job title and every man a slightly different job title — even though we all did the same thing."

    Every worker deserves to take home a fair and livable wage. But in the US, women are still paid an average of 82 cents for every dollar that men make. And for women of color, the gap is even wider, with Black women getting 63 cents to the dollar and Latinas getting 55 cents.

    A woman looking thoughtfully at her work computer screen
    10'000 Hours / Getty Images

    Some of the pay gap comes from things like occupational segregation (i.e., female-dominated fields tend to pay less) and mothers often ending up in lower-paying roles when they go back to work (a phenomenon known as the motherhood penalty). Additionally, women tend to be less likely than men to negotiate salaries when starting a new role, which can also set us back.

    But, even in 2021, discrimination and unconscious bias in some workplaces still contribute to the difference in pay between men and women.

    To top it all off, secrecy around pay can make it really hard to tell if you're being compensated fairly. So I asked women in the BuzzFeed Community to share how they found out they were being paid less than their male peers. Here are their stories:

    1. "Out of my entire academic department, I have the highest degree, more professional experience than all of the men combined, and as much teaching experience as two of the three men. I found out I was making 46% less because a student looked up our salaries online and asked me, 'Why do you make so much less than the men?'"

    Woman teaching a college class
    Freshsplash / Getty Images


    2. "I was chatting salaries with a male coworker of mine who had just been hired, and I was training him. Behind the scenes I had been fighting tooth and nail for a raise."

    "I was making $46K annually and was asking to be raised to $50K after working for the company for five years and was repeatedly told there was no room for anyone to receive any raises. Our of curiosity, I asked my male coworker (who was the same age and had the same experience) and found out that he was being paid $65K for the exact same role that I was training him for. I left that job shortly after realizing how undervalued I was."


    3. "I had been working as a veterinary technician at a hospital for four years and made $15 an hour. I had gotten a raise maybe once in that time."

    Female vet tech examining a dog's teeth
    Zoranm / Getty Images

    "The newly hired male technician was stupid enough to print out his pay stub and leave it in a public office space. He was starting at $18 an hour. All of my female, veteran coworkers saw it, and all of us were being paid less. When we brought it up to management, we all got significant raises."


    4. "Carpenter here. I had finished my apprenticeship and passed my Red Seal exam."

    "I worked with a guy who didn't complete his apprenticeship, barely showed up, barely worked when he did, and always left while the rest of us cleaned up the site for the night. Found his pay stub among his lunch garbage that he had left for us to take care of. It was more than mine. I was livid!"


    5. "I was asked to hand out the pay slips at work, and realized my boss had given every woman one job title and every man a slightly different job title — even though we all did the same thing (fast-food burger joint). The women were all earning $2 less than the men. He justified it by saying 'it's a different job,' which it definitely was not."

    Fast-food workers making burgers
    Juanmonino / Getty Images/iStockphoto


    6. "I was a senior manager for a franchise. I had managed every single location, personally opened half the locations in our district, and trained every single member of management in the district as well."

    "When one of my assistant managers was getting promoted to a general manager position, he was told, verbatim, 'Don't tell [senior manager] about how much we're starting you at; she makes way less than this,' by our regional manager. This guy came to me right afterwards and told me exactly what was said and how much he was offered. I used that information to ask corporate for a raise and was let go instead."


    7. "I was on the interview panel for a new hire. We had equal jobs, but I had management responsibility and the new guy didn’t. The director couldn’t see that he had done anything wrong."

    Interview panel speaking with a male candidate
    Violetastoimenova / Getty Images

    "It took six months and some massive escalating to get it resolved, and my pay was raised above his, as was that of another woman I hadn’t known was in the same situation. The new guy ended up being the biggest advocate for me on this — he told the director it was wrong and he felt very uncomfortable about it. On the one hand, great ally, but on the other, soul-destroying that another man got listened to when I didn’t.

    I bought a designer handbag with my first corrected paycheck — that’s how much I was underpaid by. I look at it every day as a reminder of what you can achieve when you stand up for yourself."


    8. "State employee here. The Texas Tribune annually lists the salary of each employee, and that’s how I learned newly hired male employees with the same job title as mine (but far less experience) earned about $10,000 more than me and my female co-workers in the same job. When I inquired my male boss about it, he blew me off, saying they brought additional skills we female workers lacked."


    9. "I was working for a for-profit educational establishment. I grew in this company and eventually became a senior lecturer in the higher education department."

    Woman speaking to a group
    Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

    "I was one of the most experienced and the most highly educated in the office of 11 men and 1 female, me. A male coworker told me he’d just found out that he’d been underpaid for the past three months. As a good friend, he told me how much he’d accidentally been paid, and it was more than what I was getting. This triggered me investigating and turns out I was being paid £10K a year less than everyone else in the department. I did eventually get a raise after, but left soon after that to pursue a freelance career."


    10. "I was an assistant supervisor for a call center years ago, and the other assistant was an utter moron."

    "For example, he didn’t realize that Japan was in Asia, didn’t know that the Mississippi River was a real river (he thought it was made up when he read Huck Finn in school), and he would talk about himself in third person but use a cutesy name.

    One day, the company was implementing a new 401(k) system, and we had to fill out our personal info. He was confused, so I decided to help him. It showed our yearly pay. HE MADE $15K MORE THAN ME! He was such a twit that he had to call his mom (he was 35 at the time) for his Social Security number, because he didn’t know it."


    11. "I found out just by talking with one of my male work friends! I mentioned how difficult it was to manage living expenses on such a low wage, and he seemed surprised by the number I named."

    Two coworkers chatting outside of their office
    Kilito Chan / Getty Images

    "He said he was getting $2 more per hour than I was, which isn't a huge difference, but it all adds up. I started this job a month before he did and took on extra responsibilities where he hadn't. I work in social services, which tends to be a more traditionally female job, so I really didn't see this coming. When I asked my manager about it, she tried to tell me it was based on experience, despite me having started before my coworker and coming into the job with more knowledge."


    12. "My guy friend and I had the same internship and got the same degree from the same school. Upon graduation, we both applied to the same company and same role."

    "We both got job offers but I turned it down. Later he asked me why I had turned it down, and I said because the pay was too low; he was surprised, as he told me he actually thought the pay was fairly good. We compared the salary on our offer letters and he was offered about 30% more than me."


    13. "I met my BF when we started working the same position at the same time at the same company. We just assumed we were getting the same amount until we moved in together, and somehow he always had more to save."

    Couple looking at their budget together
    Emirmemedovski / Getty Images

    "He thought I was just awful with money and offered to help me figure out ways to save. I was pretty annoyed, as I was counting every single cent just to make ends meet (we are talking about not even getting new clothes for over a year). We found out that he was getting almost twice what I was making. The fun part? He was a student at the time, and I was already an engineer and had more certifications than him."


    14. "I found out I was paid less than my coworker by seeing his pay stub after he had been fired and banned from campus."

    "I have a master's degree, was teaching three classes, and was constantly pulling dorm duty. He had no master's degree, taught one class, and refused to do more than one night of dorm duty a week. To say I hit the roof is an understatement. Just as a funny aside, the reason he was banned from campus is because he broke in and squatted in another teacher's apartment while they were out of town at a hockey tournament."


    15. "I used to work with a guy who loved to talk money. He told me how much he made, and it was $3,000 more than I did in the exact same position."

    Woman rubbing her temples while a man leans over her desk
    Jgi / Getty Images/Tetra images RF

    "We started within two months of each other. Raises were given company-wide and as a percentage increase, so each raise would put him higher and higher over the rest of us. And he LOVED to talk about it! It was so very frustrating. But when the time for promotions came, I became a manager and he didn’t, so I proved my worth in the end."


    16. "I've always heard 'work hard and you'll be rewarded.' Or 'prove you can do the job first.' I did and I believed in that approach."

    "I became known in my firm, and in my industry, for knowing my stuff and working hard. Six months into me 'proving' myself for the role, I got a $20,000 raise. That's unheard of. I was so grateful, and my boss told me how hard he fought for me to get that raise. On my drive home that day, I had this feeling something wasn't right. Few months later I made a comment about it to someone I started growing closer to at the firm. That's when I found out that I was just brought up to par with a male colleague who had less experience than I did in the same role. They did it because an assessment of everyone's pay they did triggered a red flag that I could have sued them if I found out. I was already looking at other opportunities, but this pushed me to take it seriously. I quit a few months later for a better company with better pay."


    17. And finally, "I asked!"

    Coworkers eating lunch together
    The Good Brigade / Getty Images

    "I asked my male coworkers what they make. Then when a few told me, I went and asked for the same pay and I got it. Part of the reason people are taught to never discuss salary is because employers don’t want a level playing field where they have to pay people what they’re worth."


    In conclusion:

    AMC / Via

    Have you ever been paid less than your coworkers for the same job? Share how you found out in the comments below.

    And for more stories about money, plus helpful tips and tricks, check out the rest of our personal finance posts.

    Note: Submissions were edited for length and clarity.

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