It is lonely at the top. That’s a fact borne out in my work with senior leaders. The higher up the organization you go, the fewer peers you have. The people giving you advice have their own agendas, not nefarious…
How do you know if you are earning as much as your male peers?
There is only one way to know, ask actress Michelle Williams or former BBC Editor Carrie Gracie. Williams and Gracie were both in the news this week after discovering they were being paid significantly less than their male peers. In Williams case it was almost laughable, she and co-star Mark Wahlberg both received an $80 union rate per diem for a re shoot of the movie they co-headline. But Wahlberg also got a $1.5 million fee, while Williams got zilch. Arguably Williams needs a new agent. But she wouldn’t have known that if Wahlberg’s number hadn’t become public.
Similarly, Carrie Gracie the BBC’s China news editor decided to resign this week in a pay scandal roiling the UK broadcaster. Salaries above £150k had to be made public as part of a public sector pay review. Gracie’s salary at £135k didn’t make the cut, but those of her peers Jon Sopel and Jeremy Bowen did at c. £250k and c. £200k respectively (oops!). The BBC tried to rectify by offering her £180k. They are obviously not good at math there. She decided to quit in protest instead.
The bad news is that the only way to know if you are being paid comparably to your male peers is to know what they’re making. Reassurances from the company don’t count. Aggregate data of men and women at your level in the company can hide a multitude of flaws. If you want to know, you need to ask your male colleagues: “What do you make?”
They have nothing to lose by telling you and if they care about you or the issue of equal pay, they shouldn’t hesitate for a second.
It’s the last taboo. Time to break it.
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