I'm a solution architect working on for an international tech company. I was hired on one level lower compared to my male colleague (both of us were hired at the same time for the same position in the same team). After having conversations with my colleagues, I have realised that I have been hired on a level that graduate students with no work experience join.

I have 3 years prior work experience in tech as a software engineer before joining this company. I have been successfully fulfilling the same responsibilities as the one level higher colleagues. In addition, I don't know anyone who has been hired on this level with work experience. When I questioned my manager regarding this and asked for feedback, they said that joining on a lower level means that it is easier to move to a higher level which is a vague answer in my opinion.

I believe that I should be promoted and compensated fairly. I have a year review coming up and I want to talk to them about being promoted. I am looking for advice on how to approach this as I have only been in the company for about 9 months. I am unsure on how to approach this without making them feel like I am accusing them of being a sexist or racist (I am a person of colour).

  • Since you do think gender and/or race have a part in this, it's going to be very difficult to pretend that's not what you're claiming. If you're right and this is the case, what do you expect to accomplish? Jan 15, 2022 at 21:44
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    Does this answer your question? How should I properly approach my boss if I'm feeling underpaid?
    – gnat
    Jan 16, 2022 at 4:35
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    "they said that joining on a lower level means that it is easier to move to a higher level" - that is indeed a baffling thing to say, but it does lead to the obvious response: "so I can more to a higher level now, right?". Jan 17, 2022 at 22:54

5 Answers 5


I believe that I should be promoted and compensated fairly. I have a year review coming up and I want to talk to them about being promoted

So what you're telling us is that just because they hired someone making X with the same title as you, you need to be making X + 5000? That isn't how things work. And your boss will laugh you right out of the office if the core of your justification has to do with the company hiring someone with a graduate degree.

You can believe what you want, but there's an old saying: you don't get what you deserve, you get what you can negotiate. What are the chances that the new employee is simply a better negotiator than you've been? Don't play the race-card or the gender-card unless you're 1000% sure that your negotiation skills aren't the real issue.

I am ALSO a person of color and have worked in IT for over 25 years. I don't get stuck on what the person in the next cubicle is earning - I don't care. Am I content with the job? Am I earning what I need to have a comfortable lifestyle? I do not fall into the comparison trap.

You may discover, as you'll find pretty often here on The Workplace, that in IT jobs if you want a raise it's easier to just find another gig. When you take a job, don't sell yourself short for less than you're worth. Do not rely on the notion of eventually having the lifestyle you want by way of bonuses and raises, because these things are not guaranteed. It just doesn't work like this for IT workers. If you want your salary to keep increasing, you'll wreck that by getting too comfortable anywhere (or being complacent on expanding your skills).

The market's smoking hot right now, and it'd be far less effort for you to pluck a new gig off the table than to try to convince your boss that the company should pay you more.

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    I agree wholeheartedly. 1. Don't make comparisons to what your colleagues make. It's irrelevant and isn't a valid argument for why you deserve a raise. 2. What you get is what you negotiate for.
    – joeqwerty
    Jan 15, 2022 at 23:19
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    Totally agree. Before my last role I would ask for what I thought they wanted to pay not what I wanted to do the job. I got a 25% raise and WFH part time just by making that my red line with companies I interviewed with. I don't live in a tech hotspot and companies were falling over themselves to interview me (even roles I was unsuitable for). The OP should have no trouble finding a better paying gig if they're being paid grad wages with 3/4 years experience.
    – Dustybin80
    Jan 17, 2022 at 10:47
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    "So what you're telling us is that just because they hired someone making X with the same title as you, you need to be making X + 5000?" No, they're saying that they were hired to do the same job as someone making X and they're making X - 5000. Jan 17, 2022 at 22:53
  • Bitter, no, it sounds like he is making the same, not less. While years of experience is a good proxy, it isn’t a justification for making more than someone else on its own. He needs to prove his years of experience actually matter and then negotiate with that fact. Jan 18, 2022 at 3:23
  • @JarrodChristman the OP said they are "successfully fulfilling the same responsibilities as the one level higher colleagues" with comparable experience to them, and that the only other people on their level have no experience. So they're making less than their peers, and the same as people with no experience who can't fulfil the responsibilities they're fulfilling. That's literally the point of this question. Jan 18, 2022 at 21:35

Don't focus on the past, other people or potential discrimination - carefully document what you have achieved in your 9 months and make that the focus. Hopefully your experience has helped you deliver far more than your peers and this will be obvious to your boss.


It's all about a good negotiation. I would recommend that you take to your review meeting some examples of your work plus any recommendations or positive feedback that you might have received. If your firm have job descriptions of each job grade outlining the job and competencies, then get the higher grade and work through it, see if you can provide examples of where you're delivering the work of the more senior role.

However, it's also important to listen to feedback. Ask for specific examples of where you may not be hitting the mark of the next grade. Demonstrate your ability to take on feedback and show that progress - or ask for the projects that will allow you to show your capability in those areas. If your manager can't tell you areas that you would need to improve to get to the next grade then that's good news, you should be in that grade now.

The one thing I would caution against is comparing yourself to others. Just worry about you and whether you're happy, fulfilled and progressing. Comparisons will always eventually make you feel bad - there's always someone who seems like they have more. However, we're not all equal and our trajectories are different, it's better to focus on your own.


Your concerns are valid. I am a white female who has worked in the Information Technology field for 20 years, so I have the lived experience of being a woman, though I do not experience racism. I also have a Masters degree in Computer Science and a graduate degree in Women’s Studies, so I can offer some scientific perspective.

For approaching management about the issue, I know of two similar situations related to hiring where the woman protested and her issue was resolved.

  • In one situation, the management would not hire female server administrators because it would involve onsite work at night. A female applicant complained to HR and was able to get the job.

  • In another situation, an applicant received an offer for a job. The department was hiring for multiple positions of the same role, and she happened to know the man who was hired for the other position. He was offered a higher salary with less years of experience. So she went back to the hiring team and asked why she was offered less money for more experience. They offered her more money but still less than the man was offered, so she asked the same question again. Finally they offered her the job for the same pay and she accepted, but she still had more experience than he did. Apparently persistence paid off.

I had one of my own situations about equity issues, where I spoke up because I had to work harder to receive the same level of promotion. Unfortunately, management took a retaliatory angle and tried to look for ways to get rid of me, despite how much I had helped them out over the years. I could overhear their conversations. Eventually I quit to find a higher paying job.

In speaking up, I think you need to make decisions based on your knowledge of the office culture.

From a sociological perspective, the experience is in line with phenomenon related to systemic discrimination. I posted scientific and government sources for similar issues on this thread: https://workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/160383/frameworks-to-advance-diversity-equity-and-inclusion/160501?r=SearchResults&s=5|15.7647#160501 Women and people of color tend to be automatically given first jobs with a shorter career path than white males. This can have a long-term effect on one’s career.

Also, another poster recommended job hopping. This is actually a symptom of discrimination. Women have double the turnover rate as men, and African Americans have 2 ½ times the turnover as whites. This may be a workaround to dealing with the glass ceiling, however it puts you at risk of losing your seniority benefits. (Look out for the vesting schedule for your 401K; if you leave too early, you could actually lose a lot of money.)

A couple of options for addressing this issue:

  • File a complaint with Human Resources.
  • Formally ask for a raise and promotion. List out your accomplishments for how you have gone above and beyond. Quantify how much you have saved the company in product and labor. Also, put in writing that you have more experience, which enables you to contribute more knowledge to your projects. Have this proposal ready before you sit down with your boss and present it during the meeting of your annual review.

I wish you the best of luck. Frankly, the response from management “that joining on a lower level means that it is easier to move to a higher level” sounds like a cop-out.

  • Although valid concerns about discrimination are expressed in this answer, it misses two key points in the question: 1) the op has expressed unwillingness to to come off as sexist or racist, 2) there is no clear evidence of the hiring process to be discriminative. For all we know, the op might have simply undersold them during negotiations.
    – Wind652
    Jan 19, 2022 at 7:47

That last comment is the most striking one:

I am unsure on how to approach this without making them feel like I am accusing them of being a sexist or racist (I am a person of colour).

If you don't know how to approach a problem of compensation without immediately jumping to the conclusion that your boss/company is bigoted towards you, you're going to have a very bad time, as you're going to ruffle a lot of very big feathers very consistently and find yourself on the wrong side of a lot of problems.

Allow me to give you a lesson: The way to not accuse someone of being a bigot is simply: don't accuse them of being a bigot. Are you able to have a conversation regarding your compensation without raising the issue of your race or gender? Is there any other reason, literally anything, that you can think of that may impact your compensation? Here are a few general examples that may or may not apply:

  1. You're not good at negotiation. The other person asked for a higher salary than you and got it. You should have asked for a better salary, but you didn't.

  2. The other person has a better resume than you; you have 3 years work experience, maybe he has 6, or maybe his career pedigree is better than yours (he's worked at "better" companies), or maybe his education is better than yours.

  3. The other person has some kind of specialized expertise that you don't have that the company found attractive.

  4. He was poached from a company and had to be offered an attractive package that you weren't offered.

There are a lot of possible reasons why someone may have better compensation than you, and it's up to you to see that and not immediately and reflexively reduce every problem to bigotry. This is something you aggressively need to work on, because, as you said, you're not going to be able to negotiate for anything if you immediately pull the race/gender card at every problem that comes your way; that works on Twitter but not in real life.

But that's not the question you asked; the question you asked is how to approach this problem when speaking to your boss. Which I've said a lot about what not to do, but nothing about what to do. Here's what you should do:

Do some research and find out what you're worth. If you believe you're due a raise, then say so, and be prepared to explain why. If you say "I want a raise" and your boss says "what have you achieved" and you have no good answer, you're not going to get that raise. So tally up some things that you've achieved and some value you've provided, and say that, based on those accomplishments, you believe you deserve a raise. Your boss may or may not ask you how much of a raise you want, at which point you can tell them. However, in this case, don't say something stupid. Even if you believe you're due a raise of 30% to match your coworker (as an extreme example) and you believe the company can afford it, no company is going to give you a 30% raise after 9 months, it's just not going to happen, no matter what. So, be reasonable and ask for something that you think you can actually get. Since inflation is really high (at least in North America), you may be able to get away with a higher number than you would normally be able to, but even then, don't say something ridiculous. Your boss may try to negotiate you down, so be prepared for that and negotiate in good faith, as much as you can.

But the most important part of this is to be able to explain to your boss why, based on your accomplishments, and not your skin color or your gender, you deserve a raise. Surely, in 9 months, there are copious things you can point to to encourage your employer to pay you more, and you don't need to lean on bigotry as a crutch. Use those things, let those things stand on their own. And if they're not good enough, then maybe you simply don't deserve the raise you think you deserve. Or maybe your company is actually bigoted (it does happen, but not nearly enough to jump to such a conclusion without exploring other angles) and you need to find another job.


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