I was unaware that having a vagina justified women being paid much less than their male colleagues. Did I miss the memo? Your LinkedIn profile can be amazing, you can have years of experience under your name, you can do twice the amount of work but have you ever felt little inclination to push for a higher salary? As women, most of us silently try to justify our pay because our low expectations have already been met. Have women been slowly conditioned to accept a lower pay than their male counterparts? News of a gender pay gap is far from breaking, even in Singapore.
Would it make a difference if women were bold enough to ask for the same ranking pay, step up, find answers, or simply be a man? Dear males, be a Benedict Cumberbatch and fight for the gender wage gap if you realise your female colleague is almost certainly paid less for the same job as you.
It might be difficult for many outside of this experience to sincerely sympathise, so I sat down with 8 women — from the media, finance, healthcare and sales industry — to hear first-hand how they encountered the gender pay gap. Here are their stories.
I was told I wasn’t as qualified as my junior.
“Such a complete bullshit excuse. After my male colleague left, he shared with me his pay. He was getting $450 more than me! I asked my boss if they could explain the pay gap given that I had a more senior role with more tasks to complete. This asswipe said that I lacked the skills of that of my male junior. Other than stating that he was always on time for work, my boss could not furnish me with more valid reasons.” — Kim (30), Finance
Apparently, wanting to have a family meant I deserved less money.
“During a lunch with the team, the topic of family came to light and I shared that I wanted to start growing mine soon as I had just gotten married. Two days later, a male colleague of mine (whom I was good friends with) told me that our boss had casually mentioned to him that I would not be eligible for the same pay as a male counterpart in our company. The reason? Having kids would mean I would do less work. I was immediately exempted from having any sort of pay raise. I also learned of the $300 difference between my male colleague and me that day.” — Elise (25), Sales
My male colleague didn’t even have relevant experience.
“When the 2017 Women’s March was happening in the U.S, my male colleague of the same rank asked us if gender pay was a real issue. Some of the girls in the group replied yes based on past experiences. Interested to know more, he shared with us his drawing salary. Lo and behold, he earned $600 more than me. I tried justifying his pay but we did the exact same projects. Nothing more, nothing less. I soon brought it up to my boss and he said that I was not experienced enough. Funny thing was, my colleague, didn’t even come from this industry! He had changed fields and they just gave him a shot.” — Farah (33), Media
I was passed over for a promotion because clients would prefer to work with a man.
“I did sales for a French-owned company residing in Singapore. After working for 2 years with no pay increment, I mustered up the courage to ask for a raise — and I had always received good feedback from my boss via my clients. My boss told me he couldn’t give me a raise because he had just promoted my male co-worker. I was taken back as I didn’t even know the sales department was up for promotion. After sharing my shock to the news, he told me that my male co-worker deserved it more because a client had mentioned that they prefer liaising with a man. What differentiated me for the same position was now $800.” — Ming (29), Sales
I did twice the work and my male co-worker got the credit.
“Even though I’m the youngest in my company, I was paired up with a male co-worker for a few projects. He was 1 year older and had been at this place for 3 months. After the first project, he stopped putting in effort for the presentation slides and research. I felt that after he showed me the ropes, he just kept disappearing and didn’t contribute his share. Being a newbie, I let it slide because I was scared to complain to a superior. The 5th project was the last straw. After that day, I heard that he was given a pay raise for all the fabulous hard work he had done. My bosses had just assumed I contributed the least! We initially had the same pay only now he earned $300 more than me. I spoke up but they didn’t believe me.” — Rin (22), Media
My boss said my 3 years of experience meant nothing.
“Gender pay gap, what a topic. I made the jump from sales to public relations and had over 3 years of current experience. I joined a new company and the man who interviewed me straight up told me that my 3 years meant nothing to him. Basically, he saw me as a risk to hire as other staff on his payroll came with a stronger background. Nevertheless, he hired me but offered me lower than my last public relations stint. About 1 year in, they hired a new guy to join the team: 26 and no experience. Intrigued, I asked him if he was willing to share his current pay. This lad had a starting pay of $400 more than me! I was livid. Why was my value diminished during my interview? What justified this guy with no experience to have a higher pay? My boss couldn’t answer me.” — Megha (39), Media
Because I left work on time while my male colleague stayed back.
“This incident really bothered me so much that I actually went to buy a voodoo doll to curse my boss. As my uncle was an office manager, he always reminded me to be punctual to work so that it wouldn’t affect my performance review. As a result, I always left work on time as well as I was usually the 1st to the office (and right on the dot). After 1 year, I was waiting for my AWS… I didn’t receive any but my male colleague did. I found it odd given that I knew I was doing good work; I had been praised by clients and my manager. I decided to have a word with my boss and I was told that I lacked initiative compared to my male colleague. Puzzled, I asked her for examples: “He stays back at work late” and “I realise you always leave work on time”. Because I left work at 6 pm, I was shortchanged an extra $600.” — Keira (28), Healthcare
He had stayed at his previous job longer so he was trustworthy.
“Long story short, the $700 pay difference between a new male staff and I came to light. Having experienced a gender pay gap once before, I wasted no time in asking my big boss what the pay disparity was about. Get this. He had stayed at his last job for 5 years while I only remained for 3, i.e. he was more trustworthy to hire and give a higher starting pay. That was how his pay was justified. To take the cake, my boss was a woman. Go figure.” — Soon Min (42), Finance
Written by Sinead Lee.