The Salary Gap in Real Life

Apr 29, 2022 · Brittani S Avery


I recently started a new job at SimpleHealth, a company that strives to simplify reproductive health care. Before interviewing with them, I remembered seeing an online ad on some social media, like Facebook or Instagram. But that was it. I knew very little else about them.

Right from the start, I knew that this company was different. The salary for this senior software engineer position was mentioned during the first phone call with the recruiter, no salary negotiation required. The unlimited vacation wasn't just a fake perk, but one that was actively encouraged with a two-week minimum (average vacation normally taken is around 3-5 weeks). The CEO is a Black and Chinese disabled woman who has grown the company in a manageable fashion. This start-up has even acquired another company that will play off well with their birth-control business. My interest was piqued and I was excited to move forward with the interview process.

During my interviews and my first couple of weeks, the one thing that I really noticed was the ample amount of diversity in backgrounds and cultures. My first interview was with an Indian woman (my manager now) and my technical interview was with a White guy who had majored in music but taught himself to code well enough to be promoted to a senior developer. There's a Black data engineer with long locs (hair goals fa real). The VP of engineering is a Black man living in Atlanta. The new CTO is a woman, a rarity in itself. A developer that came over with the acquired company is from Austria, who moved back home from the states with four dogs. Talk about determination and grit! And for the first time in my 14-year career, I am working with a Black female developer. She just graduated from a boot camp and the company took a chance on her, creating a junior position to have her on the team. It's been great seeing so many different kinds of people working together to spread knowledge and medication of reproductive health for those that need it.

Sometime during my second week at SimpleHealth, I got a LinkedIn message from one of my former coworkers from the job I just left. The reason for his message was to ask of my previous salary since he wanted to make sure that he wasn't asking too much for a raise. I stated that mine was $120,000 and wished him the best in his request, thinking that would be the end of the conversation.

He replied, "Wait seriously? They really lowballed you, I was given $150k =/".

To say that I was a little upset would probably be an understatement. Certainly not at my former coworker. I honestly appreciate him telling me and sharing my disbelief. At the time when I received his message, I was speaking with the Black junior dev and she also agreed in the difference's ridiculousness. All three of us acknowledged that our places of residence could have affected the difference in salary, but that was never mentioned to me as a reason for the limit of my salary. The recruiter made it seem like this was the highest amount available.

My former coworker and I were hired at most a month apart. We both have specialized knowledge that the company needed, backend development for me and mobile development for him. Yet for the most part, that is where the similarities end. I have a bachelor's degree in computer science. He has an associate's degree. I have 14 years of professional experience. He has 7 years. I am a Black woman. He is a White man.

While this is the first time I have seen a major discrepancy between my salary and the salary of a White male coworker, I have noticed the absences of certain milestones in my career. I have never been promoted. I have never held the title of senior developer/engineer until my position at SimpleHealth. I have never had a raise more than the standard 3%. I have been laid off twice, once from a job where I stayed for four years and was the team-appointed mentor for all new devs.

Coworkers have described me as a hard worker with an easy-going attitude. Managers have told me that they don't worry about my code or my timelines. But none of that praise transformed into tangible benefits. No raises, no promotions, no title changes. In 2020, the pay gap between men and woman was 17% (Source). The pay gap between me and my former coworker is 20%. It doesn't seem like too much has changed.

In the future, I will be completely fulfilled by work rather than 'toiling for nothing' like I have in most of my jobs. (Isaiah 65:21-23). Until then, I look forward to seeing what I can help SimpleHealth to accomplish and how I can grow further as a developer. During my first 1-on-1 with my manager, she asked about my career goals and how she can help me achieve them. There are new projects in the pipeline of which I'll be a big part. I'm glad to be at a company that values my experience, my knowledge, my perspective—my worth.


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