Female wage gap in PE

I have joined an infra PE boosting that they are an equality employer and took a pay cut because of good culture only to discover that I make less than male colleagues. We also make slightly less than market. In my class one guy was promoted, another had a 15% higher base than me, despite a stellar review. I am very angry and feel exploited, my image on good culture fell apart and want to fix this totally unfair situation. I feel especially betrayed by my manager who is a true mentor and sponsor and cannot understand how he could let this happen. I am the only female member on our team. Have you had a pay gap problem? If so what steps have you taken? Were those successful? I am acutely aware of our industry's 25-30% female wage gap but this hits me in the face. Oh, happy women's day btw.

Comments (69)

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Mar 9, 2022 - 5:07pm

You have every right to feel exploited. You're getting paid less for equal work. I think the best next step would be to talk to your career mentor honestly about the situation. The promotion may be a bit harder to argue, but if the guy next to you is getting the more pay at the same level, for the same work, that is the definition of the wage gap. I would also bring up how the fact there is ONE woman at the first, is indicative of a culture predisposed to this behavior. Negotiate and if you feel like there is no future for you at this firm, go somewhere else. There are plenty of PE infrastructure firms dying for diversity

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Mar 9, 2022 - 5:25pm

Not sure how you found out how much the other male Associate makes, but if he told you, I would say something about how discussing salaries is important for pay-equity and had these conversations not happened, you wouldn't have even known there was a gap. A lack of pay transparency is a tool that has been utilized to underpay women and minorities for years, so don't feel like that's something you can't speak up about

Mar 9, 2022 - 5:29pm
WB97, what's your opinion? Comment below:

That sucks, sorry.

The right next steps depend on what you want to achieve. For the narrow goal of getting paid the same as your colleagues I think you have to ask for a raise quite directly and dispassionately. It may not be right to raise a gender disparity just yet - better to point to market precedents. Really don't want to sound patronising but it seems like women are less likely to do this as society brings them up to be peacemakers and avoid conflict.

For the wider goal of getting your fund to walk the ESG talk as well as the walk, I'm not totally sure what to recommend. All I can say is that it's a super hot talent market (particularly for less well represented candidates) and there will be a firm out there that takes this stuff seriously. Only you can decide whether you feel like you need to take this burden on your shoulders.

Mar 9, 2022 - 8:00pm
WB97, what's your opinion? Comment below:

It's time for direct action. Schedule a meeting with your MD / partner or probably better grab them face to face in the office to say how you feel. If you do it right it will not be viewed negatively. 

Reports that get lost in HR (or really any HR involvement) is probably a waste of time in most firms. 

Mar 9, 2022 - 5:40pm
Deal Team Six, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Unfortunately, even top bucket women regularly get exploited across all industries. A friend who is incredibly smart and is regularly marked as a top performer recently found out that males a level BELOW her were making more than her (think Associate vs VP in IB). This is at one of the top 20 largest consulting firms in the US and is well known for being a great firm (I dont want to get too specific).

My advice: Find the people you are close with at your fund that are the same level and compile data points. Present this data to your manager and ask that he advocate for you IMMEDIATELY. No waiting until year end, or until bonuses are paid out, you want your compensation to align with others at your level. My major assumption here is that the colleague making more than you has a borderline identical background and YoEs. I also dont know how big your fund is, and if you both joined at the same time. These all weigh into how you are treated. 

Regardless of how your manager responds, it may be time to consider jumping ship. The PE market is so hot right now I doubt youll have a problem given your pre-existing experience. Your firm should compensate you fairly or you should leave. Compensation has been why I have left every firm except one throughout my career. You are probably extremely bright and hardworking, so your compensation should reflect that. PE is an uphill battle for most women, so you need to feel comfortable advocating for yourself. I have a few female friends in PE and have read a good bit about how awful it is to work in PE for many women at top PE funds. 

Mar 9, 2022 - 5:50pm
mooyi, what's your opinion? Comment below:

If you aren't comfortable pointing out your specific coworker (totally understandable, he was just trying to be helpful after all), you can instead talk about market compensation as a whole. Here's a LitCap Buy Side Comp Survey - feel free to use this to say you're underpaid relative to market. Also raise the point of high junior talent turnover if that's been an issue at your firm, and just say, "I think junior turnover would decrease if we paid closer to market".

Also, I would comment that if I found this out at my firm, my trust would be irrevocably broken and I'd start job searching immediately. You are a valuable resource. Especially in the current environment, they should be bending over backwards to keep you. If they aren't, 100% guarantee there is some other firm out there that will.

Mar 9, 2022 - 6:38pm
PatrickBateman1, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Things that never happened - Season 1 on Netflix

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Mar 9, 2022 - 7:02pm
PatrickBateman1, what's your opinion? Comment below:

At Jr level, ppl with same seniority have same base pay, as simple as that. Unless you're omitting something (ie he got in beginning of the year and you at the end, or he had made a significant contribution / threatened to leave and got a pay bump). If it's just as you say, you can just threat to leak the story to the press and GPs are aware that if it happens, in 0.5 seconds 80% of LPs won't be interested in doing business with the fund anymore. But I continue to believe that this is made up / twisted in some ways

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Mar 9, 2022 - 7:12pm
tierlistgoat69, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Lol contribute to what? The "Oh no woe is me, I am a woman, shower me with attention" circlejerk?

Mar 10, 2022 - 8:46am
DeeperSense, what's your opinion? Comment below:

That would be the definition of closed mindedness. An open minded individual would have a discussion with anyone about anything, as long as it's done in a respectable fashion.... which i think it most definitely was.

Most Helpful
  • Analyst 1 in Consulting
Mar 10, 2022 - 1:05am

my guy, have you ever seriously tried to befriend a single woman in your entire life? i say this not in a satirical or in a mocking way, but ask yourself: do you see women as real people? like real human beings with ambitions, feelings, and experiences that exist outside of their relations with men?

just a couple of offhand thoughts on the questions you're posing

why does menstrual cycle matter if what you're evaluated on is output? if she is getting stellar reviews, then clearly she's productive enough

if you're a man who is actually less productive around attractive women, you should probably seek professional help. either way, it's not on women that you can't be professional around them

why single out prolonged maternity leave when men also take paternity leave? shouldn't both parents be able to take equal time off and contribute the same amount to raising their kid? maybe 2 in 4 women wouldn't have to quit their jobs if their baby daddies stepped up and actually helped out, but i guess you aren't really considering the idea that men should also be parenting their own kids? lol

your "ruthless capitalistic" point of view is a bad take because you failed to consider that you don't see women as real people. you take for granted that men shouldn't have to control themselves around women, that women's biology means they're less productive (which is clearly not true), that women should be the primary caretakers of children instead of men. you wouldn't assume any of this in your "analysis" of women in the workplace if you viewed women as real people

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Mar 9, 2022 - 9:30pm
The EBITA addback, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Just chiming in with sympathy. My best advice (as I've been in a similar situation). Ask for what you're worth- confidently- be ready to walk if it doesn't happen within a reasonable time (3-6 months). While waiting start interviewing because generally once this happens the feelings change (on your part). At least mine did. Finally in my life I'm paid fairly and valued. Finally. But I'm 42 and have been dealing with this same type of shit long enough. Discussing pay amongst coworkers is a right and protected right. It's not out of bounds to say directly you know you are paid less than the rest of the team without mentioning names. I've done it before and it's worked for me but I had to wait and make sure I was not going to take a lot of bullshit. Having other options cooking in the background gave me the confidence to act so I suggest you start shopping around to see what offers you are able to get. Best of luck. 

Like the unadjusted- only with a little bit extra.
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Mar 9, 2022 - 10:21pm
Cluelessboutnance, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Wow… this is concerning. As a current undergrad going into IB who will probably have to exit into PE or some type of corporate finance to move back home, this scares me.

Questions for women on this thread (and apologies if this is derailing it)-

Do you feel like you "fit in"? I can be bro-y, but a lot of these places are all guys. Do you feel excluded when it comes to out-off-office activities? Boutique IBers also probably have some insight into this.

Have any of you had experience getting married/starting a family in high finance? I'd love to get married and have kids in a few years but continue with my career. Do you think these places are supportive or even do the bare minimum (I.e. don't discriminate, give adequate leave, won't fire you, will still promote).

Thanks to all the women who have already contributed to the thread!

Mar 10, 2022 - 8:00am
The EBITA addback, what's your opinion? Comment below:

It's not easy- but TBH it's way better than it was 15-20 years ago. Find a firm that actually believes in diversity and respect. Im married and have a child but I'll tell

you honestly that it has been an uphill battle of being marginalized and not heard and underpaid. I am routinely the only women and youngest on my team- and I'm in my 40s so not that young anymore. 

Like the unadjusted- only with a little bit extra.
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Mar 11, 2022 - 10:28am
IncomingIBDreject, what's your opinion? Comment below:

You're the youngest in your group and 40? How is that the youngest? Are there no juniors?


Mar 9, 2022 - 11:39pm
marketMergerMaddie, what's your opinion? Comment below:

My advice may vary depending on what state you live in and whether or not you want to leave your current job immediately:

1. Before doing ANYTHING, make sure to have whatever argument you want to present on paper, that it is accurate, and includes both industry and company metrics clearly demonstrating that you are underpaid on a basis of salary compared to your equal peers. You may be able to ask your HR team the compensation range, averages, medians, and starting pay for all individuals depending on the state you live in. Additionally, if you role has any H1B employees, the compensation range for your role should already be online. I don't work in PE, so wouldn't know if that's something the space does (LO AM doesn't usually do it either, or at least my company doesn't).

2. Bring this information to people that you trust the most, such as your mentor. Do not start with your manager, but consider that you may need to bring this info to him or her in the future. Speak about this in fairly indirect terms. Talk about other people making more without explicitly complaining. Right now you're just planting the seed. Eventually do the same thing with your manager, once the people close with you have gotten a piece of the message. 

3. Make your commitment to the company clear. Say in clear terms that you do not want to leave and cite your stellar review as a reason to stay around. At the same time, be prepared for nothing at all to come of this, or worse, to be forced to find other work. Reach out to others in the space and explain you may want to keep your options open. 

4. When you're ready and all of the seeds have been properly planted, bring the issue to your manager in a direct manner. At this point, he or she may even have some understanding that you are disappointed with your compensation. Again, cite your stellar review. Cite your peer's numbers (but not necessarily your peer) and industry numbers. Put everything on paper and be ready to quote exact numbers if you can. Consider waiting until year end if you are adamant about maintaining peace, but I personally would not do this. I would rather speak immediately on this topic, or following the above, a few weeks after planting the seed. 

Don't feel too pressed to bring up the fact that you are the only woman on the team. They already know you are, they'll know when you discuss not being compensated enough that the only woman on their team feels upset about being underpaid. Unless they're total sociopaths or actively trying to swindle you, this will be immediately apparent to them. However, if they do not remark this to you in your more direct discussions with them, then I would absolutely bring this fact up. I'll also add if you have to do that, then you should leave.

What you are being forced to endure is completely unacceptable. I hope you resolve the issue swiftly. 

Happy Women's Day! From, a fellow underpaid woman

Mar 9, 2022 - 11:56pm
Kevin25, what's your opinion? Comment below:

1) vote with your feet. move to a place where they pay you better. if you are as valuable as your male colleagues, it will be their loss and a gain for the company that will hire you.

2) maybe they are paying you less because you just joined and have much less value than established colleagues with experience?

3) understand that women still, even in nowadays modern and equal opportunities society, expect guys to provide and pay for them when going out, buy more expensive gifts, etc. So guys do need these 30% more to pay 100% of your next check at a restaurant. Women love to scream about 5-10% pay gap but think that they deserve 100% expense gap when a check arrives at the table.

4) happy women's day.

  • Associate 2 in PE - Other
Mar 10, 2022 - 8:51am
  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Mar 10, 2022 - 7:02am

I couldn't agree more with fighting against the wage gap. It's truly preposterous that a firm will have this kind of wage gap in 2022! Maybe I can DM you and we can talk more about your time at the PE firm as well as how your experience has been going through this wage gap issue. I am looking for a PE role btw

Mar 10, 2022 - 9:33am
CompBanker, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Few questions to better understand your situation:

1 - Is the person with a 15% higher base the same exact title and join the company at the same time as you? For example, it is very common for PE Associates (coming straight from banking) to get a pay bump after 1 year of service and again after 2 years. Their title will likely remain the exact same and their job responsibilities will not change, but they'll be getting paid more than a new joiner. Same concept as a 1st year IB analyst versus 2nd year IB analyst. 

2 -  You said in your 'class' that one guy was promoted and another received a 15% higher base. Is it just the three of you in the class? You'll have a substantial argument if the male with 15% higher pay is the only other person at your level. If there are 10 of you, and 9 (male and female) are at the same pay and the 10th is a guy with 15% higher base, you may be hard pressed to prove that you're getting paid less as a result of being female.

I think it is important to understand these two points above as they will either make or break your argument.

Mentorship with CompBanker: https://www.RossettiAdvisors.com

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Mar 10, 2022 - 10:20am
ChanandlerBingo, what's your opinion? Comment below:

More of an inquiry than an opinion here, but I think it's a good opportunity to ask: where does this come from? Why is this company paying you a lower salary compared to your male peers? I can see how the wage gap arises from the millions of hidden biases that our society has. But in cases like this, there's not supposed to be any bias driving the pay down. Yet, we're talking about the same role, (at least) the same level of performance, roughly the same background and the gap persists. Why is that? Clearly it's not any executives saying "hey, let's pay her less because she's a woman/menstruates/will have children/any bullshit justification", it's something else.

Mar 10, 2022 - 5:51pm
Freja, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I don't think it has to do much with anything convoluted such as embedded discounts on gender and lifestyle, it's virtually the lack of assertiveness and knowing my worth because the guys managed to get what they wanted. I just thought that I shouldn't play politics and shouldn't manage my internal sales to the extent it seems to be necessary. Very appalling realisation - I think the female aspect affects this two ways: obviously you are brought up being told you should be nice and just as nice guys don't succeed neither do nice girls. It's just that most girls are so nice so it's not a pop culture thing. Second, the narrative around equal pay and comparatively better career options for women would lead you to think under compensation for the same work was a thing of the past. Clearly that positive discrimination exists for a reason.

Mar 10, 2022 - 11:43am
IcedxTaro, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Freja - I work closely with HR and the upper management team at my current company.  I often get the heads up on important news when they arise, also understanding pay determination and offers when candidates are presented.  

Some things on social behaviors - 

1.  Don't believe everything people share with you.  Often times they will lie.  I have been in situations working directly with people 3-5 ranks above me pulled into a room where we asked for a statement from them regarding whether or not information was shared was truthful or not.  

2.  If they are willing to show you a W2 statement and/or offer letter/e-mail, then utilize that as proof for equality in pay.  Think of this like evidence in a court of law, what proof do you have besides a word of a colleague?  Are they able to provide a statement (written) or testify on your behalf?  It would be a fools errand otherwise.

3.  If it does come down to actual pay differences, then look to jump ships.  When or should you do find a different firm, research what the pay is and provide yourself a better negotiating salary.  

Feel free to PM, but good luck.

Mar 10, 2022 - 4:12pm
jorbanana56, what's your opinion? Comment below:

My value doesn't come from my salary, but my virginity, which increases in value every year. Was at 3 million a few years ago, now is at 10 million. 

Mar 10, 2022 - 4:30pm
neink, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Something like 70% of the wage gap is explained by working longer hours, so... start by working more.

Never discuss with idiots, first they drag you at their level, then they beat you with experience.

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  • Anonymous Monkey
  • Rank: Chimp
Mar 10, 2022 - 5:44pm
Anonymous Monkey, what's your opinion? Comment below:
  • Associate 2 in PE - Growth
Mar 10, 2022 - 5:59pm

As one of the few verified users, I see 2 possible realities for this post:

  1. The post is taken at face value and is truthful. If this is the case, you either need to have proof they are actively discriminating against you and you could sue (wouldn't recommend it) or you negotiated poorly and have buyers remorse. Either way, the firm sounds like it isn't a great fit--you should leave. Shit managers exist and shit firms also exist, so people acting like this doesn't happen aren't aware that there are more firms out there than just Goldman Sachs and KKR. A well known firm can't really get away with this sort of stuff with pay visible and standardized, but there are plenty of smaller shops with biased management. Whether you choose to sue or not, you need to think about an exit and it seems like even if you try to negotiate a higher pay, the firm has given an indication you aren't a priority. Let's be blatantly clear, a good manager wouldn't underpay you if you were valued. You either aren't valued or have bad managers. Another shop out there will value you and frankly this might not be a gender issue as much as a you aren't being valued at your current shop so you need to leave. Put in context, when I was a banking analyst I was given middle-bucket, despite being enormously helpful to the firm leading trainings and infrastructure improvements--they underpaid me. I went to another firm where my contributions are rewarded appropriately. Part of capitalism is a game between employer and employee of trying to under-reward/ use the other. I am sorry if you are just realizing this now.
  2. The story is more complicated than the poster is revealing. For example, the colleague outperformed her in someway or there is some element of office politics resulting in different comp structures. 

The posters talking about raising the gender flag are stupid--that is a surefire way to become a leper in the organization. Managers don't take kindly to threats and that will make the organization view you as a cancer that needs to slowly and carefully be shuffled out of the org or treated in a way that leads to you departing. If you like your current job, get an offer somewhere else and leverage it to stay.

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Cov
Mar 10, 2022 - 7:19pm

I was on a deal once, the financing party had offered a loan that came with a ludicrously high interest rate (was a pretty hairy asset) and my boss was trying to argue with them. It got deeply technical, going into the assumed cost of capital, why the WACC should be higher or lower, correct peerset etc. The client pulled my boss to one side, and said:

"You're fucking sick, you know that!? You have some complex that because you're a banker and they're bankers you have to outsmart them on the technicals and prove that you know the numbers better?! Go back into the room and tell them to fuck off and that the rate is too fucking high!"

It actually worked. He told them the rate was too high and refused to debate it, and they came back with a lower interest rate. The point I want to make is that a lot of posters above are suggesting you go into the office with market data, data from colleagues etc. I think that approach ultimately misses the unique context of the situation, which is basically that you specifically, not you as a generalised investment professional, want more money and if they don't pay you then you'll walk. I'd interview around, get another job offer then approach them with an offer in hand saying that if they don't bump your salary you'll leave. Just my two cents.

  • Works at Goldman Sachs
Mar 11, 2022 - 1:53am

There's a negative wage in this industry. We auto max out female employee's bonuses because we are afraid of lawsuits 

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  • Associate 2 in PE - LBOs
Mar 12, 2022 - 10:51am

Funnily enough, my fund is hemorrhaging female talent because capable investment professional women are super in-demand given LPs calls for more diversity metrics, initiatives, etc.

I kind of doubt one or both of 1) you're as good as your comp set and 2) you're being actively discriminated against. If both are the case, this is an incredible time to lateral. You could be in a new seat, paying market, in a week.

Apr 4, 2022 - 2:56pm
AnalyzeANDchill, what's your opinion? Comment below:

This kinda just seems like BS similarly to anyone who sites the wage gap as they usually do not factor in all variables. I don't see how you know that much about co worker salaries and if you are truly underpaid this much then why would you have accepted the offer? You didn't know your value then but yet now you know you are severely underpaid?

If the going rate for females was truly 30 percent less then all most all hires would be female until that equaled out. 

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Apr 4, 2022 - 5:05pm

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Apr 7, 2022 - 9:50am
allmight, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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Apr 7, 2022 - 6:07pm
Tamara_S, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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