new coworker with my exact experience got hired at a higher level than me — how upset should I be?

A reader writes:

My new coworker starts today with a more senior title to me, and I’m struggling to not be upset.

Here’s the timeline, with identifying details changed:

I graduated college in 2020, and immediately got a job building healthcare software at a small company. I did that for two years and joined the software team at my current company in early 2023 as a contributor. It’s similar, but distinctly different from what I was doing previously. By all accounts, I’ve been knocking it out of the park since then. I’ve learned quickly and have started to take on stretch assignments. I’ve been told I’m the best person they’ve ever hired for this role, and that I’m on track for a promotion to senior contributor at the end of this year. Potentially relevant, I’m a woman who reads young.

We’ve been trying to hire someone else for the software team since last year, and the man we hired is … very similar to me. He also graduated college in 2020 and spent the last couple of years building healthcare software at a small company. He got hired on as a senior contributor, and I’ll be training him (because we come from similar backgrounds).

I feel … slighted, that he has the senior title (and, presumably, pay) and I do not. I don’t understand why. I keep telling myself that his title is a business decision that doesn’t have anything to do with me, but I think I need to hear that from an outside source … and I definitely don’t feel like I should talk to my boss about this.

Should I be upset? Any tips for coming to terms with this?

There are a bunch of possible explanations for this, but these are among the most likely:

1. The new hire was genuinely the best person for the position. Although you graduated at the same time and have held similar jobs since, it’s possible that his qualifications put him ahead of you for this particular job. He might have really impressive accomplishments in his last job, or particularly impressive skills, or who knows what; people are more than graduation dates and job titles.

2. There’s something your employer thinks you need to work on before you’ll be ready for a promotion to senior contributor. They could think you’re great at what you’re doing now but still want to see more leadership skills/comfort presenting to senior audiences/strategic planning/all sorts of other things before they promote you. (If so, they should have told you that specifically at some point. Have they ever encouraged you to work on anything specific?) If this is the case, it doesn’t negate that you’re great at your job now; it just means there’s more they need to see to be confident you’ll excel at the next level. They might not have seen the same development area with the new hire (maybe because it’s not there, or maybe because they know you better).

3. There’s something you don’t know about the hiring decision, like that they really wanted someone who brought Specific Skill X, which you don’t have, or who would work well with a difficult personality in your department, or this guy used to work for a client they’re actively wooing, or all sorts of other things that are hard to know from the outside.

4. He’s a dude and you’re not. Sexism is still a thing, and it absolutely happens that men are hired into jobs over women who are just as qualified or more qualified than them. It’s not framed that way, of course; the man just happens to have “leadership potential” or “gravitas” or “feels like someone you could have a beer with” or he reminds the hiring manager of themselves or all sorts of other things that are steeped in and influenced by sexism.

Reading this list, you might have an idea which possibilities are the most likely. Or you might have one soon, after you’ve had a chance to work with the new hire and see what he brings (or doesn’t bring). You should also look at how hiring and promotions generally work in your company: are they reluctant to promote from within and prefer to hire externally? How many women get promoted versus how many men? How competent and how rigorous has the hiring been generally?

You can also talk to your boss about it — not framing it as “why didn’t I get this job when he did?” but as, “I’m looking forward to working with Jim. On paper our backgrounds look very similar and I’m really interested in moving into a senior contributor role myself. I wondered if there’s something he brings to the job that I need to work on developing to be considered as strong a candidate for that position myself.”

All of that should help you answer your question of “should I be upset?” (And if you land on explanation #4, you shouldn’t come to terms with it.)

{ 286 comments… read them below }

  1. MishenNikara*

    It’s really REALLY hard to not lean towards #4 or the second half of #3 when LW apparently is totally qualified to train for the role, but apparently just cant be in the role in the first place. Hopefully #4 is not the case.

    1. Bast*

      The having to train the new person makes me lean heavily into 4 as well. The only other thing I can think of is if this person somehow has an “in” with a higher up.

      1. Also-ADHD*

        I think I’m in a similar field to LW and in my company, a lot of the senior and lead skills are a combination of 1) specific technical skills (not sure LW’s software but ours is really varied, and the more you can do, the better—that’s what really determines who’s worth paying more in many cases) and people can go a whole career with minimal software but people can also have very little experience yet be very proficient with multiple tools) BUT if that were a big factor I feel like LW would mention a portfolio, 2) project manager skills (even though we’re not project managers) so my org looks out for certifications in program or project management or that experience (which some people could easily gain and spin or even fake frankly, but which I’ve found really doesn’t correlate with years experience), 3) working with difficult people with ease (but honestly that’s always something I take with a grain of salt with outside hires because who really can prove that?) because we have to work with so many divisions of the org and manage up a lot in senior and above roles. It could be sexism but it’s also often easier to get a senior role by jumping companies in many cases, unfortunately.

      2. Starbuck*

        “Training” could just mean, here’s an overview of our current projects. where to find files, and how to use our internal systems – basic orientation. It doesn’t necessarily mean “let me teach you the skills you need to accomplish technical tasks for the position”. Definitely worth it for LW to clarify which it is! Because if it’s the latter, that would indeed be wack.

        1. Banana Pyjamas*

          I think if it happens once it might be fine, but if it happens more than once, it’s a bad sign. My mom trained three different men on her job, who then all got promoted before her.

          1. Arglebarglor*

            I had a similar thing happen to me. I was working as an RN in acute care, and two men, one of whom oriented at the same time as me and who had the same experience and credentials and another who I precepted and trained when he was a new grad, were promoted to nurse manager (and, later, one of them was promoted to director of nursing for our department) despite my applying to the positions. None of the female candidates were even interviewed.

      3. Ellie*

        As a software manager with a team of software engineers under me, who is responsible for hiring, I have another option not listed that happens all the time.

        Salaries have increased at a fast rate since you were hired. In order to hire someone new, you need to offer them enough to leave their previous position. When its a large company, dealing with salary bands, the only way to do that is to hire them at a higher title. Hence ‘graduate’ software engineer becomes software engineer, and mid-level software engineer becomes senior. It sucks, its something I address all the time in my team (i.e. we need to regrade people who have been here for a few years to be fair, and to make sure they don’t leave) and it happens at every company I’ve ever worked at.

        OP – it sounds like you’re going to be promoted at the end of the year, which probably means your supervisor is like me and wants this discrepancy addressed. I’d encourage you to bring it up with them at your next one-on-one, in terms of, ‘I believe I’m contributing just as much as this new person, and they are a senior. When can I expect to move up to senior as well?’. Its perfectly fair, everyone does it, and it might get the ball rolling on your promotion quicker.

        Try not to take it personally, its the price you pay for loyalty though.

        1. Tech VP*

          This is a strong possibility. I’m a Vp of product at a software tech company. My team is full of developers.

        2. kt*

          Yes, I also agree that it’s a great time to make a case for promotion and raise based on market considerations (and this new guy is your market comparison).

        3. Smithy*

          This is the issue that leapt out to me that wasn’t originally included. Where new hires with similar qualifications are able to negotiate/start with higher titles than people who have been promoted from within. And there’s more of an ongoing waiting game for that balance or reclassification to work out.

          I’m in a field that’s largely women, so I see this happen a lot between women where specific issues of gender or race/ethnicity aren’t present enough to make that seem like a majority indicator. I’m not speaking for issues of sexism in software/tech – but unfortunately one of the harms is those larger systems of oppression create is create ambiguity on what the cause is of something.

          For the man coming into the senior role, in his last job – he may have been in the same place. Not yet a senior contributor, and training a newly hired senior contributor he believed to have the same skills as. If he’s not having to juggle the reasons of whether it’s due to sexism, and just wants that promotion now – he went out and applied for other jobs and got the title he wanted. Or applied to get an offer, went back to his other employer and asked what they could counter with. Comparing the offer and counter offer, opted to go with the new one.

          There are pluses and minuses to leaving too early, and getting bigger/better titles as fast as you can just because you can. But for those of us who are women and are double checking is it for XYZ reasons OR Sexism, it’s an extra burden that takes time, is a logical question to ask, and is exhausting.

        4. ClaireW*

          As a software engineer, this is what I assumed – he probably either already had the senior title in his previous role (which isn’t impossible, titles are inflated pretty badly in some tech companies for the reasons you mentioned) or wouldn’t move unless he got it.

        5. Zahra*

          The only thing that bothers me in this scenario is that we’re in January and they’re on track for promotion “at the end of the year”. That’s a full year of pay (and raises opportunities, higher yearly 401k contributions, and job opportunities asking for “X years in a senior role” in the future) that they’ll be lagging behind. At the end of a career, it adds up to a significant amount.

          If all else is equal, I would definitely push back to get the promotion earlier in the year.

          1. Ellie*

            You can insist on matching or exceeding his salary as a way to fix that, but yes, I believe most companies view this as desirable, they can avoid having to pay you more for a bit longer. Also, OP should insist that they will still qualify for their annual salary review next year, after they get their promotion. Often the cut-off is January but it will be different at each company.

        6. sb51*

          Yep. Have seen this happen; a good employer will try to re-level existing workers, a bad one won’t. Either way, asking is a good plan.

        7. Nik*

          Yes, the new guy most likely negotiated to get the senior title (and pay). I have a friend who started a new job and she’s a higher grade than the person who is the “lead” on her first project because she had that higher title at her previous (small) company and they matched it.
          I doesn’t sound like the OP didn’t get the job. They were hiring another person to be on her team and he just negiatiated the higher title – they are both individual contributors so equal on the org chart.

        8. Someone in FL*

          Alison give excellent advice. In this case, however, you give even better advise than her. I would guess there is a 90% chance this is the correct option compared to the four that she gave.

        9. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yeah, I think while sexism is a very real possibility, it sounds like OP was hired here around a year ago so even though right now they have basically the same history this guy has roughly one more year of experience than OP did when she was hired. “3-5 years of experience” I think is a pretty common benchmark for a senior role, so if she had around 2 when hired and he has around 3 now then that’s in line with what one might expect.

          And it sounds like OP is being told they are on track to be moved into the same role he was just hired for. If they actually follow through on that in the next year, then there wouldn’t be a HUGE gap in when he was put into that position vs when she was.

          If they string her along promising promotions that never come while paying her less for contributing essentially the same work as him then that will be harder to defend and it will definitely be time to have a conversation with the boss about it. Even then it might not necessarily be because of sexism, and more because companies are very stupid about retainment and often offer better things when hiring new people than to the employees they already have. In that situation OP may need to start looking outside the company for advancement.

        10. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

          This! AA++++++

          In the high-tech world, your career advancement depends on three things —

          1) Overall, far and away, you’ve got to be good and even excel at what you do
          2) Your willingness to move on to better situations, whether you’re abandoning a sinking ship, or see better opportunities for yourself
          3) The overall market for your skills set.

          I am going to kick aside the “if you’re a man it helps” argument – in fact, in the last 20 years of my career, most of my managers were women, so I can’t lend any expertise on that.

          Let’s go to #2. Hiring is a competitive endeavor. And sometimes, people have to do things like that to hire someone. You COULD ask, why, but you are likely to be given rationalizations.

          Sometimes, when they’ve pulled the “passover shuffle” on you, you have to take your career into your own hands. Do ask why, and then start looking. When you find a situation, then act. You might get a raise, or else they’ll accept the resignation. In either case, you’re ahead.

          And in my experience the “there’s no money in the budget for raises (parrot squawk)!” is horses**t in a large, financially stable company. I’d like to hear Ellie’s opinion on this — nearly every company that’s doing well has a slush fund – off-budget – to handle situations where they have to give a raise to a key, critical person because they’re going to lose him or her. Oh yeah, raises can be retroactive. They call ’em “stay bonuses”.

          1. Ellie*

            Every large company I’ve ever worked at has a budget for additional raises outside of the current stream to address things like inequality and niche skills, yes. I’ve made use of it several times, most recently to bring the only person of colour on the team up to the level of everyone else, and once to retain two long-term high-performers who were the backbone of our project. It absolutely can be done, its just whether they feel the need to use it or not.

            I would not wait until the end of the year if I was OP, I’d raise it now. They’ve already indirectly raised it through discussing the senior title, and it will show them that she won’t hang around and be taken advantage of. It will be easier to get them to see the need to accelerate it before they’ve written down any decisions, and it will alert them to the fact that they will need to match salary as well.

            Regarding sexism though, there’s a reason why a lot of female engineers end up in management, its because men see them as being more collaborative, having the soft skills, and drive them into it. I’ve seen that happen with hard-core technical women who did not, and never wanted to become managers. This is not a good thing. The few female technical experts I know are incredibly talented, and very tough.

        11. Wendy Darling*

          I think one of the reasons people in tech move jobs so often is that companies do this but are then reluctant to regrade or promote people — it’s definitely a major reason I’ve moved jobs. At my previous job I was making something like $40k more than a guy I think was way more skilled in the role than I was, and it was mostly just because I was hired later.

      4. Random Dice*

        I’m sure men will think #4 is the least likely, but women have seen this exact scenario too many times in our careers not to know it’s likely #4.

        My former coworker (female) had to train a younger male coworker who had less experience than she (both in years and skillset) and then he treated her as an ongoing trainer/problem-solver two years in. Then she found out his salary *started* at 150% of hers.

        Another female friend applied for a manager position she was already doing in an acting capacity, and the man who was hired by the male grandboss had, again, less experience (years and technical quals).

        It’s the way of the world.

      5. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        Which isn’t any better, if anything it’s worse because you can’t accuse the company of discrimination.

    2. ScruffyInternHerder*

      As someone who has been asked to train a new hire with a higher position/title and pay scale, I’m kinda looking askance at the whole thing and leaning the same way as you, MishenNikara.

      I would absolutely be following Alison’s advice to discern the why and how of how he’s a better candidate – because it’ll help me understand better how to get there myself…and if it IS number 4, well, you now know.

      1. Caliente Papillon*

        Ha ha as the admin assistant who complained about having train her new directors and couldn’t even be promoted executive assistant, then decided to leave (and immediately became a manager with 2 direct reports) and then all the directors quit cuz no one was doing their work – I concur.

        1. ScruffyInternHerder*

          For clarification based on later comments: no, I was actually training a “senior” llama handler to work with llamas, not just the standard practices of our office…

          He may have had the title but he’d never done the work in his life.

          Nope not there anymore!

    3. Angstrom*

      Training a new arrival for a more senior position is often more like “Here’s where we keep our special llama grooming tools, and here’s how to order more shampoo” and not “This is how to groom a llama.”

      1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        Yeah, that is what I was thinking. No matter how qualified you are, if you are starting a new job at a new company, you need some training on how things work specific to that company. Someone with equal or more years of legal experience than me could be hired into a higher titled position, and I would not be surprised if my boss asked me to train or assist in training them.

        1. Michelle Smith*

          I’m also in the legal field and this would be exceptionally weird at any place I’ve ever worked.

          1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

            I feel like this must depend on what you mean by training. Because I can’t imagine bringing in more senior people to show me how to use the timekeeping software, Relativity, or whatever legal management system you use. They both have more important things to do AND are unqualified for that.

            1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

              Exactly, and I personally work for a government agency, so if someone came here to work, even if they had been handling the same kind of cases from the defense side, or if they had been working at a different agency, they would still need those of us who have been there to help get them up to speed on how we enter information in our systems, how the various boards like us to handle things like exhibits (they all have their own particular ways), etc.

          2. Cmdrshprd*

            I used to work at a small firm and as an para/admin, I absolutely trained new attorneys that came in, either new grads, and/or experienced attorneys. From basic admin issues to here are the staplers, this is how you print, this is how we save documents in our system, even some slightly substantive but basic procedural law issues, like this is how you file in x court, after we receive x filing we have x amount of time to respond, or senior attorney Jane Smith likes things this way.

            Even at bigger firms, staff frequently train new attorneys on various software/procedures.

            Of course it wasn’t anything like trying to teach them major substantive law issues, but generally being asked to train someone on some areas does not mean you could do their full job.

          3. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

            I work for a government agency, and every agency has its own particular ways of doing things. It also means that unless the person has worked at our agency in that role before, their higher level of legal experience is not in the exact same practice area (and even if they have been doing our cases on the defense side, it is very different on our side), so they do need training from people who have been doing the actual job longer. We will have attorneys come in with many years of practice experience who wanted to retire and go government due to better working hours and flexibility, and I will have to train them sometimes, because their legal experience may not be the same. So I won’t train them on how to do an opening statement or cross-examination, but I will train them on the administrative process act, the relaxed evidentiary rules, and other legal issues specific to our cases.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes, exactly — it’s the way you might need to train your new manager on how the team does things (like “here’s how we log this in the database”), but that doesn’t mean you’re training them in how to do their job.

          1. nnn*

            In every company I’ve worked in this was called “training.” Onboarding is more the HR orientation.

      3. Spencer Hastings*

        Yeah — currently my coworker “Jordan” is participating in the training of a newly hired manager (i.e. a level above us), “Avery”. Avery is a CPA and has ~5 more years of experience. What Jordan is doing is training Avery on the procedures specific to our office; eventually, Avery is going to be reviewing Jordan’s work (among other people’s; there’s no reporting relationship between them).

      4. ferrina*

        Exactly. I regularly help “train” new hires that are more senior than me, but all that means is that I acquaint them with where our SOPs and admin resources are.

        If LW is providing substantive training, that’s another story.

        1. Anne Elliot*

          I’m a senior nonexempt employee in government, meaning I stay when administrations change and my boss leaves as part of the heads-rolling process that always happens to politically-appointed senior staff after an election. I’ve gone through many bosses, because they come and go as the political winds change. I have to train them all because while they know how to groom llamas, they don’t know how WE groom llamas, or why we do it that way. That sort of “training” is very much par for the course.

      5. Silver Robin*

        That is fair enough, I always think of training as more thorough and use “orientation” or something to talk about “this is the software we use and you can find extra equipment over here”. But folks use “train” for both.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          Yeah, I mean to me ‘orientation’ is an onboarding day where you sign up for your benefits, make sure you know the company reporting structure, someone shows you the building layout and where all the restrooms are, you get an ID and entered into the system, etc. Training is everything you get in the next few weeks that you need to do your actual job. Things like “these are stocked items from ops. This is the system you need to order primers. Here are the plate readers. We use software X to analyze, you can download it from [location]. IT will get you Z and U. If we’re out of a snack you like, you can tell the office manager and she’ll order extra with the next order”

      6. The Person from the Resume*


        Also the LW will know once she meets him and gets to know him. Perhaps she will see a particular skill that he has that she does not. Or maybe she’ll find him equal to her skills or even not as skilled and then she knows more.

        But having the “train” someone doesn’t mean you should be higher than them in the org chart. New hires need training on the particular systems and processes your organization uses no matter what their skill level.

      7. exhausted*

        not in tech, and onboarding a new engineer regardless of level is handled by a peer or a senior, not the junior. not OP but in this exact situation rn

      8. AngryOctopus*

        Yes! I’ve trained many a scientist who is levels above me! Because they need to know where we keep things, what software programs are used, how to find that weird conference room, and why the ancient ordering software can’t be upgraded again. She’s not teaching him how to do his job. She’s teaching him the specifics of how the job works at this particular company, which all new people require.

      9. Hamster*

        I liken it to – when I join a new company, I would need training on the tax preparation process and procedure, but not on how to actually prepare a basic return. Or, like I may ask one of the accountants how to use a specific feature on QuickBooks but I know how to do basic bookkeeping and what a financial statement should look like.

    4. Silver Robin*

      Yeah, why not promote OP to the senior role and bring new guy in to fill her old position? OP then is reasonably tasked with training up the newer, more junior employee and the company spends the same amount of money.

      I really hope there is some specific skill or particularly cool project the guy did that makes him worth the senior title. Though I also have side thoughts about who is given those opportunities, it still means that at least there would be a tangible thing to point to. Alison’s framing of “what do I need to do to get to that level” is great because it gives management space to respond in a telling way without putting them on the defensive.

      1. LJ*

        it’s not obvious from the letter that there are two unique positions in terms of senior-junior here. The company could well be cool with 2 senior llama groomers doing the same work, and just didn’t promote OP yet

        1. LJ*

          other posters stated it more eloquently in other threads – these can be pay grades, not notably different positions.

    5. MK*

      Usually, training during onboarding isn’t “training for the role”, it’s showing someone how things are done in that particular company. Presumably someone hired for a job does know how to do the job, they just need someone to show them the ropes. I have trained and been trained by people higher, lower and at the same level; the only factor is that the person training is a seasoned employee.

    6. Viki*

      I don’t find the training a red flag. Different companies have different internal processes–there’s many ways to do something, it doesn’t mean she’s training him on how to do the job, it’s how the job is done in this company.

    7. kina lillet*

      This would be pretty normal in a software job, especially because it’s likely that this new guy isn’t coming in TOO much higher than the LW. A more senior developer might be expected to learn something faster, maybe, but they would still need to learn the codebase and potentially the programming language.

    8. Peon*

      Well, but it sounds like they’re software developers. There are a lot of things that are specific to our shop that we wouldn’t expect an outsider, no matter how experienced, to know. Like one of our languages is VERY niche, but “similar enough” to a mainstream one. And there’s things like, sure you know THAT framework for javascript, but we use THIS one.

      And all the stuff like, here’s our GIT repo, and this is who handles licenses, etc. And our naming practices, and whether we do paired programming or not, and so on.

      1. Roland*

        +1. Doesn’t matter how great you are, it’s much faster as a dev for someone to show you the ropes for how to build and run stuff as the new company than to figure it out on your own, because every company does stuff differently.

    9. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Speculation based on timeline.
      Position with coworker is posted. Man hired for position.
      “My new coworker starts today.”
      OK. That tracks.
      “…with a more senior title to me”
      So the position wasn’t posted as a senior position? They hired a man and decided that the position they needed to fill was “senior”? So they could pay him what he was asking without having to raise anyone (who happened to be a woman) in the department.

      1. Antilles*


        Saying “my new co-worker started today at a higher level” is a completely normal phrasing to indicate to separate pieces of information. It does not in any way indicate the timeline.

        Like, if I said the phrase: “I started a new job today as a junior teapot designer”, would you assume that my company pulled a massive bait-and-switch and changed my title? Of course not. It’s two separate facts: (a) we hired someone and (b) their initial role is junior teapot designer.

        Speaking generally, it could certainly be #4, but that sentence doesn’t mean imply anything like what you’re claiming it does.

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          I’m trying to ask if there WAS a switch.
          And if so, why.
          What was posted?
          Did they make a junior position a senior for this guy?
          Did they always plan for a senior and this guy is a great interview?

          1. LJ*

            Especially when the job market was hotter, it’s not uncommon for a company to be willing to take anything between a junior, mid-level, to senior software developer depending on who shows up. Of course you don’t want the composition of a given team to be too heavy one way or another, but if it’s a team of 2 and there’s enough work to go around, then it can certainly work with candidates of different levels.

      2. Lis*

        In the companies I worked in all positions were advertised internally as well as externally so there was visibility. So we have a senior position open and anyone internally can apply and if they don’t give you the job (if you apply) they have notes as to why the external candidate is better. They can’t just decide to give someone a better job that wasn’t advertised. They can offer the lower tier job to an applicant (up to them if they accept) if they give an internal candidate the job.

      3. amoeba*

        In my company and field, the position can usually be a multiple different levels, depending on whom you end up hiring. So, in this example, you’d search for a software developer, but in theory are open to newly graduated as well as experienced people – my role is one you can in principle do from right after grad school to retirement, with increasing titles and pay, but still in the same role as peers with the other “developers”.

        So, if you end up hiring somebody straight after school, they’d get the “junior developer” title and respective pay, if you hire somebody with 10 years of experience, they’d get “principal developer” or whatever. They’d still fill the same role and work on the same projects (with slightly different expectations, obviously!)

    10. Lucia Pacciola*

      In my experience, this kind of “training” is mostly about onboarding the new hire to that employer’s way of doing things. Where we store our code. How we handle pull requests and code reviews. Coding conventions we follow. What systems and services we need access to, how we use them, and how to request access to them. This is all stuff a junior team member can appropriately “train” a senior new hire.

      It is never ever about training the new hire to do the core skills of the role.

    11. Yorick*

      But “train” in this case probably means “make sure he knows stuff specific to our company” rather than “teach him how to do the technical work required.” In which case it makes perfect sense that they’d expect a current employee to do it.

    12. RC*

      Ask me about the time I found out my male colleague of basically exactly the same experience, education level, career stage, and tasking, was making $28k a year more than me.

      To HR’s credit, they did fix it when I complained about it. But the run up to actually complaining was stressful for me (I hadn’t yet decided I have zero effs left to give… and if you can get yourself in that place, let me tell you it is glorious).

    13. HiringManager12*

      What about option #5, an oversight? This could be because of a realignment in HR experience requirements or titles or another decision influenced by those who are not the hiring manager. Or, perhaps the hiring manager recognized this senior role and the need to fill it but didn’t reflect on how it might align with OP’s experience and contributions. If the contributions are similarly valuable but in different areas, that could be a miss.

      If so, then does OP have a generally reasonable manager, who wouldn’t want to create a disparity between new and old hires? They might be receptive to an adjusment if OP can rule out the issues in #1-3 and if it truly stems from an oversight/disconnect somewhere.

    14. Just another person*

      I hate that #4 is still a thing but it totally is.

      My female management team (they should know better!) bent over backwards to offer the man that’s replacing me in the exact same job 20% more than they could come up with to pay me – budget issues my butt – and while I’m leaving and thankfully don’t have to train him, he’ll be trained using materials I developed.

      I just want to retire already. I don’t see this changing in my lifetime.

      1. Orange You Glad*

        A friend of mine working in management-level roles was promoted to manage a team of mostly younger than her, male employees. When she had access to their compensation information she realized all of her employees were being paid more than her. This was only 5 years ago.

    15. Mel Es*

      #4 is real. I encountered someone who found out that her male counterpart at work was paid better. She quit her job to protest. I disagree with this protest method because you cannot change the perception without being in the field.

      Eventually she got worked up, became angry about the world on social media and never worked in a professional setting again. After reading some of her social media posts, I would not interview this person even if she has solid evidence on sexism. (I am a woman, too.)

    16. peanut butter*

      you know, just this afternoon I had a conversation with my daughter. she’s doing an undergraduate in physics, in the same department I was in 40 years ago. She said that the hiring committee picked a man as a sessional because *they already had two women faculty and that was enough *. (from someone who sat on the hiring committee).

      After 40 years in tech, it’s hard not to believe #4.

    17. Orange You Glad*

      I just fought for (and won!) an increased salary offer for a new female employee we are bringing on that I feel is a similar situation to OP’s. A male employee was hired just under a year ago. He was fresh out of school and had no related experience but had been an intern at our company in a different department. We hired him and he’s been working out great. A year later, we are hiring for the same role. We offer the job to a female candidate who is fresh out of school and only has internship experience but it’s experience directly related to our role. I figured our starting offer should be about the same as what we started the male counterpart at – why would we offer less to someone who is equally (if not slightly more) experienced than our current employee when really the only difference is gender and 1 year between hiring dates?
      The main argument my manager had was male employee is now 1 year more experienced and his salary should reflect that compared to his peers. I pointed out that our annual merit raises are already determined for this year (they go into effect in March) so his salary will be going up to reflect that 1 year of experience in a few weeks. It wasn’t until I laid it out as two basically equivalent candidates and insinuated that we wouldn’t want any optics of discrimination that he relented.
      We already have a problem at our company of salaries for similar roles being way out of sync – mainly due to increases in minimum salary offered company-wide over the past few years. I’m trying to prevent those types of gaps from continuing while also setting up my newest hires for long-term financial success.

  2. TP*

    Along lines of “do they promote internally?” you might ask”do they promote internally late?” generally, among the fastest ways to get promoted is to switch companies. Because, for reasons good or bad, companies don’t feel a need to reward success until you’re already doing the next job anyways.

    If he was at your level before the hire, you might ask him about his prior role and why he left. Maybe he felt same as you about his old company.

    1. Anonym*

      Yeah, I think this is possibility #5. Promotion processes can be slow. You might have exactly the same qualifications for the senior role right now, but because you joined a year ago in the junior role, you’re on the slow promotion track. Whereas he presumably applied for and got the senior role directly because that’s what they were hiring for at the moment.

      1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

        I was thinking they already have LW mentally slotted into “will promote to senior at year end” so they aren’t even thinking about her right now. Like that’s a different mental bucket. Not sure if it could be sped up, but she could certainly ask.

        1. Ralph*

          That’s what I’m thinking. Senior Llama Groomer and Llama Groomer aren’t really different roles, just different pay bands. I would think they just plan on having two Senior Llama Groomers after annual reviews.

      2. So they all cheap-ass rolled over and one fell out*

        I was going to say the same thing but then I realized it kind of slots in as reason 2(a). It’s well known that companies will hire outside people at rates they won’t give (as raises) to existing employees. But I have personally been a part of the same thing happening with promotions. When I wanted to get promoted to Senior Engineers, I had to work months at the higher level contribution, which included leading a project with two Senior Engineers they hired in at that title based on nothing more than hour or two of interviews. They lost me over it – they waited just a little long to finally give me that promotion. For whatever reason, a lot of companies can’t get past the “we need to see x y and z demonstrated” for an existing employee but will hire that outside person and I guess plan on firing them if they don’t live up to expectations?

        It’s also true that companies will wait until e.g. the next review cycle to give a promotion but will hire a new candidate mid-year.

        1. Bitte Meddler*

          That’s similar to what happened to me at my last role.

          I came in with tons of overall experience and several years in department-specific experience. I was hired at a Level 3 (with Level 1 being entry level, no experience).

          At the end of my first year, I said, “Howsabout we move me to a Level 4?” Management said, “This department doesn’t have Level 4’s.” I pointed out that other departments did, and management said, ‘Hmmm… we’ll think about it.”

          At the end of my 2nd year, I said, “How’s that Level 4 thing going?” And was again told that there aren’t any Level 4’s in my department. So I asked about the next rung up after that: Manager. I was told I wasn’t ready yet.

          At the end of my 3rd year, I said, “I’ve taken on everything you said I should to be promotable to manager; when will I move up?” And I was told I wasn’t quiiiiite there yet, but to keep plugging along.

          And then, when someone on our team moved to another department, they replaced her with someone from another internal department and brought the new person in as a Level 4. You know, that level that our department supposedly could never have.

          I asked management what the deal was and they made noise about the Level 4’s experience… which was less than mine. In fact, I had worked with the Level 4 on a couple of projects and had had to teach them what they were doing.

          So I found a new job. And as soon as I told my manager I was quitting, they suddenly could make me a Level 4 on the spot, complete with pay raise.

          Yeah, no thanks. My new job is as a Sr Manager (or a Level 6, if going by my old company’s hierarchy). So now my new company is benefitting from my years of experience, and the old company isn’t.

          It’s dumb that companies do this. When I got hired at Old Company, there was someone in the department who’d been kept at a Level 2 for five years. They got moved to Level 3 after I started. They got fed up with how slow Old Company moved, so they left and took a Manager (Level 5) position elsewhere. Now they’re back at Old Company after maybe a year and a half, as a Manager. I guarantee that if they’d stayed at Old Company the whole time, they’d still be a Level 3. Same person; same level of experience.

      3. MsM*

        Yep. I had this happen fairly recently when my workplace brought on someone new at my level but gave her a senior title. Turns out they wanted to bump me up, too, but bureaucratic red tape prevented it until my annual review.

    2. ferrina*

      This. Also look at who they promote.

      I worked for a company that only did internal promotions for men (it was also a tech company). I am a woman. They hired another woman to do the same job as me, and gave her a senior title. I asked what I would need to do to get that title (especially since we were doing the same job with the same responsibilities). I was told “oh, just continue to do what you’re doing”. I eventually got promoted, but “gender discrimination” was mentioned before the admin suddenly realized that I was doing senior level work (I was demonstrably doing more senior level work than the person who had the senior title)

    3. Mary S*

      I agree. I would even say this is a possible explanation number five which isn’t listed… they needed another head, and could not get someone as good as you with the pay and title they were giving you… so they offered higher pay and a better title. You they think they can retain with the pay and title you’ve got, so that’s what they are paying you. It’s not as much about what they think your worth is, as about what it costs to get or keep you.

      So I think the thing to do is start applying for other jobs. If you get a decent offer, tell your current boss you are going to take it unless you get that promotion they said you were up for. Set a high value on yourself, you know?

      1. mcm*

        Yes, I agree with this explanation #5 — hiring someone gives them an opportunity to negotiate that’s different than negotiating internally. It might be the case that he just negotiated upon receipt of the offer for the higher title, I’ve seen that happen before.
        I think applying is not a bad idea, as that’s often how people get promoted now, but I would also bring up again with your boss the possibility of being promoted and ask for specific steps you’d have to take to reach that point. It might also be the case that your boss is looking to promote you on some reasonable timeline and didn’t intend this as a slight, it’s just what shook out in negotiations. I wouldn’t take it personally but I would consider this evidence that you’re reasonably qualified, or approaching reasonably qualified, for the higher position, and start being more insistent on what it would take to get there, whether with this company or another one.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Just to note that regardless of the reason, if the end result is that OP is getting less money for doing the same work as the new hire, it’s still illegal sex discrimination. The law is based on impact rather than motivation.

          1. Elbe*

            Exactly this.

            It’s not right to tell a female employee that her skills & experience aren’t good enough to get a promotion right now, and then hire a guy with the same qualifications at a higher title and rate. Regardless of why they are making this decision now, it’s unequal.

            1. Katie A*

              Unless the reason is that he has more valuable education, experience, soft skills, or hard skills.

              They can definitely pay him more for having a different role, which he does have.

              The reason could also be one of the basic reasons many people mentioned, like the job market is better for job seekers right now in their field or the fact that companies often offer new hires more money than someone from within being promoted to the same position. You can argue the resulting pay difference is illegal because of equal pay laws, but even if it is illegal, that doesn’t mean there was any sexism involved in the decision.

              Unless the LW has a reason to think there sexism involved that she didn’t mention in the letter (unlikely), she’s much better served by figuring out what they need to do to make more money or get a promotion and advocating for a pay raise or title bump that way, rather than focusing on the reason someone else got hired at a certain level.

      2. bamcheeks*

        Yes, I was going to add #5– he applied and you didn’t. Which could also be sexism! One of the ways that gender differentials get embedded is that a job posting says 5 years experience for the senior role and women think, ah, I’ve only got just over three years, I’ll apply for the lower level, and men think, I’ve nearly four years! Worth a shot! and companies don’t do anything to challenge that self-narrative.

        This isn’t to say it’s your fault— there is also wide evidence that women who try to “be more like men” in their confidence and presentation are more likely to be punished for it. You can’t defeat systemic bias with gumption, unfortunately. But you absolutely CAN ask the question about what it would take and what the timeline is. And if you don’t see some action, it’s quite reasonable to assume that the way to get a promotion is to apply elsewhere.

    4. Na$ty Larry*

      They might only promote internally once a year. Something like this happened at my job where I was going to be promoted on schedule, but it was 3 months after we hired someone new into the role I would be promoted to. Everyone in my group saw me as more senior to the new hire and de facto referred to me as 1 level above where I was because we all knew I was going to be promoted (I even helped interview him), but it definitely stung for a bit waiting for my actual title and pay to catch up to how I was being treated and the expectations for me.

      If I were LW I’d be trying to find out as much information as I can about the new hire’s salary so that she can negotiate for more when she is promoted at the end of the year.

    5. Your Mate in Oz*

      This is ubiquitous in software. I only know of one case where people directly swapped roles so each could get a 20% pay rise (well, it happened but it was not their original intention). My most recent significant pay rise came when a coworker left for 50% more pay so the two of us who didn’t leave got similar pay rises.

      So it might be worth the letter writer asking their new coworker about their former job and whether it would be worth her applying for it. She could well get a recommendation from the coworker and a pay rise if she accepts the job :)

      I suspect part of the problem is the disconnect between the effort or amount of work we do and how much profit we bring in. The marginal cost of an extra customer is generally infinitesimal and often unreleated to the quality of the software. So it’s hard for management to decide whether to pay us an extra 10% or 200% when profit changes by 10x or more. Often they opt for no change in pay.

  3. Eric*

    I think there’s a likely #5 as well: The organization holds internal promotions to a higher standard than outside hires. They may know (or at least believe) that in order to attract top talent from other companies, they need to offer a higher salary/title than what they have now. With internal people, they know they are willing to do the work at their current title/pay (at least for now), so don’t feel the same pressure to promote people as they do to give title bumps to people coming in. This is, of course, short sighted, but not uncommon in my experience, and at least as likely as the other 4 options. It leads to the commonly held belief that in order to give yourself a pay raise, you need to find a new job.

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      Or the organization doesn’t want to hire someone internally because then they have to hire ANOTHER person to fill the promoted person’s spot.

      1. Silver Robin*

        But they have an open spot regardless? I guess I can see it as going through two hiring processes, but I also do not see why the jump from standard/junior to lead/senior requires a whole hiring process. It feels like that can be semi-automatic: person has shown they can do senior work, so they get the title, pay, and responsibility bump of a higher level individual contributor. Then for management, it might make sense to have a whole position and hiring process. But the positions I have had have yet to fall into that kind of ladder, so I could be missing something.

        1. samwise*

          Trust me, lots of places will have two whole hiring processes in this situation. Whether it makes sense or not to do that, isn’t pertinent at such places. Alas.

      2. MK*

        Eh, so what? Sure, they need to hire someone to fill the promoted person’s job, but they don’t have to hire anyone for the senior role. The amount of hiring they have to do is thw same, one position; the only way that factors in is if the senior position is easier to fill for some reason.

        1. B*

          You have to run two separate hiring processes–the process that led to the internal candidate getting promoted and a second process to backfill that person’s old job. And you may have to make a new (and potentially harder) business case to backfill the now-empty junior job. It’s not rational but it’s also not uncommon.

          1. amoeba*

            If it’s anything like what I’ve experienced, it’s not really a change in role or position at all, just a title and salary change. (It requires a form that’s signed by HR and manager if you do it internally – have done it for my direct report, really not an effort in any way comparable to hiring!)
            It’s also not like there’s only one junior and senior role in the department, basically people just progress “in parallel” and everybody works as peers, anyway. So you could have all juniors or all seniors or anything in between in the department, depending on tenure and experience of the people at any given time…

      3. Spencer Hastings*

        Not necessarily, depending on the structure of the organization. We’ve had various numbers of staff accountants and senior accountants in my department (sometimes more staff than seniors, sometimes more seniors than staff), just depending on the timing of when people were hired or when people left. I didn’t have to wait for someone else to leave or be promoted in order to be promoted to senior — it was just a reflection of the skills I had and what was expected of me. It seems like in the LW’s situation, the new hire was hired into a newly created position, and the level of his position isn’t necessarily related to the level of hers.

        1. So they all cheap-ass rolled over and one fell out*

          My otherwise good organization has this structure of only wanting to dole out a certain number of promotions per cycle and also not have too many people at any given level, even though there’s not a fundamental difference between what the different levels do (and there’s no shortage of profit to pay the increased salaries).

      4. ClaireW*

        In my experience it doesn’t really work that way in software – unless someone is being promoted out of a team, they’ll just keep the same people but now be e.g. 3 seniors, 4 mid level, 2 junior instead of 2 senior, 5 mid level, 2 junior. It doesn’t require there to be a new hire for every promotion unless the team numbers change.

    2. Texan In Exile*

      “to attract top talent from other companies, they need to offer a higher salary/title than what they have now. With internal people, they know they are willing to do the work at their current title/pay”

      This happened at OldJob. I was making $51k and a job paying $85k opened up in another OldJob division. I applied and got it, but when I got my offer letter, the pay was only $75k. They told me that $85k had never been the salary but was total compensation.

      I took the job because it was still more than $51k, but that, plus a list of 6,000 prospects whom my new boss wanted me to cold call (I’m not making this up) is what had me looking for another new job the first week.

      They filled my $51k slot with a man making $67k. (I am a woman.) The new guy accomplished nothing in the two years he was there. (Job was to find training companies and license them to use Old Job’s training programs. I signed five new licensees in 18 months. He found none in two years.)

    3. MrsBuddyLee*

      This is definitely the case where I work (also female in a software-y field).

      When someone applies to a job posting, only the hiring manager needs to approve the level/title, with some rubber stamping from HR (so that you don’t offer an entry level person to a senior role for example). The guideline is basically do they have the potential to be successful at the offered level and are there open needs at that level.

      For an internal promotion not tied to a job posting, you need to get approval of at least 1 (but usually more) manager(s) above your manager, plus HR. The guidelines include demonstrating that you’re already operating at the new level and that either the role you’re currently in or a similar open one with that level will continue to exist for the foreseeable future.

      We get around it to some degree by posting jobs that are intended to be filled internally, but it’s still annoying.

      If it makes you feel any better, I found myself in a similar position early in my career (with my now husband of all people). A decade later, I’m a level above him with a salary at 32 hour/week greater than his 40 hour/week salary, so it can work out in the end.

    4. Craig*

      That is very possible. It’s just happened to me, and one of my new colleagues has just announced that he’s going to my old employer for exactly the same reason. We were both only considered for the promotion because we were coming from outside.

  4. Not my coffee*

    As someone who works in a male dominated field….offering support. That’s all I got right now.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      Ugh. I worked at two healthcare systems. When they had department wide meetings, there would be 100 people in the room and 80 were women, and 20 men. All the men were manager or above. If a man ever came in as a contributor, they would be promoted to a manager in a month.
      Same at both employers. Healthcare is still biased.

    2. Clare*

      My solidarity also!

      I’m coping right now with the fact that I was promoted to my team three years ago but not given an office space on the same floor as the rest of the team. Instead I’m perched on a landing between the toilets and the soldering station. We’ve just hired a man into the same role as me and he’s been given the shared office space with one of our seniors that’s been empty for 18 months. The justification? He has the same experience as I did at hire – in a different company – so they couldn’t possibly insult him by making him work on one of the lower floors. Excuse me? It’s so egregious even he’s confused.

      Anyway, my best advice to all women in male-dominated fields is to write down everything that feels off, no matter how small and petty. Best case scenario it’s nothing much and journalling is a healthy way to vent. Worst case you actually have a proper list of things that have happened to you when you need it. I read a comment the other day that said “When you hold up the single staw that broke the camel’s back it seems unreasonable. You need to brandish the entire bale.” and that’s very true.

  5. Olive*

    Another possibility:
    Right now they’re paying you as a junior contributor and they’d like to keep you at that pay level as long as think they possibly can regardless of your work quality.

    I left a company soon after pointing out to a previous manager that if I quit the company and re-applied, I’d be hired at $20k more. She couldn’t disagree, but guess who didn’t get a $20k raise. She was always promising that I’d be ready for a promotion “soon”. After leaving, I got a promotion and raise within a year.

    Sexism, impressive past work from your coworker, and a need for more development for you could all be real factors, but I’d bet my socks that the only way you’ll get comparable pay is at a new company. Unfortunately, it would be easier to get that if you were already had the senior contributor title so you’ll have to decide whether it would be worth staying until then.

    1. CL*

      This was my thinking as well. Several times I’ve seen a position bumped up from what was posted because the candidate they wanted didn’t quite fit in the pay range. Bump the position to a “senior” and you can give the extra money. They won’t make that bump for an internal candidate.

      But, as a woman in tech, I rarely see that bump happen for women.

    2. Web of Pies*

      This happened to me as well, and the person hired over me literally couldn’t do the job, no matter how much I helped her. Like, she just locked up and did nothing, and so my solo work was presented to the client as “the team’s.”

      I had been genuinely trying to put it past me and help her out, did tons of coaching and feedback, but after that I just let her flail (meaning I stopped proactively helping and covering for her, but would still help as appropriate), and she left after a few months.

      OP, be helpful but not TOO helpful. If you’re past the training period and you find you’re picking up his slack, stop. Let it be on display.

  6. Sparkles McFadden*

    Sometimes, it’s also a timing thing. Maybe you came on when there wasn’t a senior role open but New Dude applied right when there was an opening? Companies are weird about promoting people they hired into a junior position to a senior position in a time frame they consider to be “too soon.” So if you start at a junior level they won’t promote within the year, but if you happened to apply when the senior position was open, they hire you into it. It’s absurd.

    That said, my money is on sexism and that sort of “he just seems so confident, he’s a real leader” crap. Just make sure that you get PAID at least as well as New Dude does when they promote you later on (and try for more).

    Good luck!

    1. ferrina*

      “he just seems so confident, he’s a real leader”

      See also: “He’s got great potential; if we don’t give him a raise, someone else will.”
      (I worked somewhere where men were promoted based on “potential”; women were promoted based on results that had to be proven sevenfold)

      1. Sparkles McFadden*

        …and then the woman who did not get the job will be asked to help the new guy “Grow into the role.”

      2. Clare*

        And yet when you’re a woman it’s
        “She’s too overconfident, we can’t trust her not to make silly mistakes”
        “She’s got great potential even though she’s not there yet, that’s why we’re doing her a favour and taking on the risk of keeping her on”.

  7. JessicaRabbit*

    Don’t be afraid to let management know you want to move up and ask them how you can get there!
    Once, I applied for a job I knew I wasn’t qualified for, but I knew I wanted to move up in the company. During the interview, I told the two interviewers that I knew others had applied with more experience but that I brought a fresh perspective and if nothing else, I wanted to meet them to make my intentions clear.
    They called me a week later to tell me I didn’t get the job, BUT they created an entirely new position for me, with more money. They said they were impressed with my directness and sincerity.

    1. Revere your cat*

      Here to echo this! Make a case for yourself and your performance and say that you want to discuss being promoted to the senior level.

      1. Spencer Hastings*

        Agreed. And I actually disagree with our gracious host a little bit here — I wouldn’t mention Jim in this conversation at all.

        I had a situation a few years ago where I felt like I wasn’t progressing in terms of the assignments I was being given, while my coworker who started only 6 months before me was being entrusted with more and more complicated work. (We’re both women.) I resolved that her name would not pass my lips in any conversation between me and my manager about my workload and level (unless my manager brought it up, which she never did). I kept all those conversations very objective, about what I was doing and what I might be ready for in the near future, not about whether or not I was as good as Alice.

        I just think the explicit comparison could be a red herring.

  8. Llellayena*

    It also may be a perception thing that has nothing to do with gender. If you’ve been there for a year and started there at the lower role and were correctly classified coming in, your management’s perception of you may be slightly stuck on the perception of what you were when they first met you (despite your accomplishments since). The new guy has “new guy” vibes and could curate everything they saw of him to only show the best bits. They haven’t yet seen his development pace or what happens when he misses something in training. He’s just jumping in like he sprung full grown from the golden egg.

    Don’t discount the gender thing though. If after the “what can I do to get the senior role” convo you don’t have a clear answer to why he’s in the senior role and you’re not on an obvious track yet, it might be worth bringing up as a gender pay gap thing.

  9. Techland*

    Hard not to lean towards option 4 as being the culprit. It could even be unconscious on their part. I work in tech and have seen women in particular held to higher standards / held back because they’re soooo good at their jobs. Heck, even one of my coworkers has been strung along for years/can’t have the same type of reactions to things as her male coworkers because she’s a woman and they’re not.

    If it feels like sexism it probably is. But I do love Alison’s suggestion to talk to your manager to see what they think is missing.

  10. Zee*

    It’s hard to tell, but it sounds like the hiring might have been done at an open rank rather than specifically posting for a senior contributor. I’m wondering if when he got the offer, part of his negotiations included asking for the higher title.

    1. Polaris*

      Burns my tailfeathers, this.

      Dealing with someone who has a senior title not behaving in any way that a “senior” anything should behave professionally. And as his lackings are becoming apparent to all, I suspect that there will be popcorn involved at some point.

      1. Polaris*

        (That should say a “negotiated senior something or other title”, not just that he has a senior title.)

    2. anecdata*

      Also in software (and a lot of tech) “senior” is (confusingly!) actually a pretty junior title, for an early career ish (not new grad) IC. Varies by company, but 3-5 years experience is pretty normal. I’ve only seen Junior when they are literally new grads – and even then some companies skip it

      Actual senior IC software titles are usually Principle or Architect

  11. Jodi*

    LW indicates they’ve been trying to hire someone for some time. Perhaps they worked to woo this person from another company and had to offer them a more senior title in order to get them to move. She mentions she’s on track for a promotion at the end of the year, perhaps meet with her supervisor and ask if that can be moved forward if she really feels her skills are equal to those brought by the new hire.

    1. exhausted*

      with the current state of every single tech company she’s 100% gonna hear that they can’t do her promotion this year bc of budget. and if she tries to bring evidence she’s doing same work or better as new hire they’ll throw some spin about him being new to the role

      1. AngryOctopus*

        The unfortunate truth of the world seems to be that the budgets for hiring and those for promotion are totally different (in science, have the same thing). It’s entirely possible that LW is getting a promotion next cycle, but they can’t just promote her when they ‘feel’ like it, because there are cycles with budgets for that. If she gets promoted in the next cycle (or not promoted but asks for/is given areas of development/plan to get her there) it’s likely not #4.

    2. learnedthehardway*

      This seems like the most likely situation. If the role is difficult to fill, the company may have thrown in a “senior” title just to land the candidate. Doesn’t necessarily mean that there is more money in the offer, but that could be the case too.

      Agreeing with Jodi above that it makes sense for the OP to see if her own promotion can be fast-tracked. It certainly would be a good idea to make sure that she is tracking well towards that promotion and to ask if there are any areas for her to grow/develop in to make sure that the promotion happens on time.

      And also, the OP should consider that perhaps the new hire has some experience or skills that she doesn’t have. It’s entirely possible that he worked on specific projects that are very relevant to the company, or that while both he and OP graduated at the same time, he had done co-op terms while in school that give him more work experience, or something like that.

    3. Starbuck*

      Yes I’m confused, it doesn’t sound like OP applied for this role? Or I can’t tell. Was the role listed as Senior X, and so OP didn’t apply because she expected that promotion to happen later anyway, as stated? Or was the role listed as Junior X, and the Senior hire level was a surprise? (Sounds like it?) Definitely worth going back to her boss and phrasing it similar to what you’re saying here.

      1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

        I think they had an opening that could be either JobTitle or JobTitle+1.

        1. LW was recently hired at JobTitle.
        2. New guy was also recently hired, but at JobTitle+1.

        She’s noting that new guy got the JobTitle+1 at hire, rather than having to prove himself and be told “oh, end of the year” like she has, while apparently having the exact same skillset.

        1. LJ*

          LW was hired 1 year ago at JobTitle. In a 4 year career, that’s a long time. New guy could’ve also been in the same position a year ago, but has that extra year of experience now (as LW also has at this point, but not when they were hired)

      2. English Rose*

        Yeah that’s confusing me as well. If the role was advertised as Senior Contributor and OP didn’t apply then that’s a different thing. I say that because I’ve seen many times people saying to themselves “Well if they think I’ll be good for that role they’ll contact me.” If she did apply, she needs to ask for feedback on why she wasn’t appointed.

      3. Nik*

        Sounds like the department needs 2 Llama groomers. LW was filling one of those and they needed to hire a second, so the job posting was probably just for a “Llama groomer”. But the new guy negotiated the title of Sr. Llama Groomer, even though he’s still just an indivudual contributor – same level on the org chart as LW.
        She didn’t apply for the new position because it was listed as the same position she’s already in.

    4. Goldie*

      I would definitely say something to a manager, similar to what Alison wrote but even more specific, like: I see that we are pretty similar on paper. I have a great track record here and will be supporting his on-boarding and training. Is it possible for my promotion to be fast tracked so that there isn’t an imbalance in our roles? I know that equity for women is a priority for the company.

      My friend did this recently and it totally worked and it was an oversight (or so they claimed).

      I also did this in the past and roles were adjusted before the person started.
      Hiring can get hairy and people can negotiate well.

  12. Jen*

    In my company (also in software) it’s way easier to hire someone with a higher title and pay than to promote someone to similar title and pay. Different budgets, different approvals. It’s also very hard to promote someone offcycle, while it’s very easy to hire someone whenever your job requisition gets approved..

      1. TechWorker*

        I work somewhere with similar policies & our retention rates are way better than industry average. Saying that, ‘hard to do off cycle’ is not ‘impossible’ (I got a huge out of cycle pay rise when I asked for it after realising I was paid orders of magnitude less than people doing the same work).

      2. Jen*

        Not great, not terrible… definitely worse than they could be, obviously, but this seems to be the norm at least in the tech corporate world.

    1. On the grind*

      I was thinking this as well. I work in recruiting for a global professional services firm and we have a once a year performance achievement/promotion/evaluation process (with a mid-year exception only process). That is the only time someone can be promoted. It sucks for sure and causes heart ache for a lot of employees.

      Sometimes they will realize after the fact that they hired someone into the wrong level and plan to correct it as soon as they can (when performance achievement comes around). In the meantime, if they are looking to hire additional- they will look to not make the same mistake and level people correctly going forward.

      Could very likely not be the reason, but I could see in my organization that her management realize she should be a higher level (they said they are looking to promote her) AND they are looking to hire additional talent and plan to hire at the higher level for the same experience. Yes, he would leap frog her momentarily, but it is better than making then adding to the problem by misleveling him.

      I would hope her supervisors would have a conversation with her in that situation- but I can also imagine they would be afraid to promise too much because promotions are never for sure until they are already approved.

  13. Circus Monkey*

    5) He may have negotiated his title into his compensation package when he was offered the job

    1. Not an expert*

      I feel like it’s almost undoubtedly this, because it doesn’t sound like the posting was for a higher title or, presumably, LW would have applied.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        Because dudes are generally better at asking for and getting that higher compensation and title. So no, it doesn’t negate 4 at all.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          It’s not that dudes are “better at it”, it’s that employers are more receptive to negotiation from men. Fortunately, it makes no difference to the sex discrimination law, which only cares about disparate impacts.

    2. Elbe*

      I agree that this is a real possibility, if they are struggling to hire.

      Even so, #4 is still very much in play. Companies need to be aware of fair compensation. If both employees experience/skill is now considered a specific title and salary by the market, a decent employer would to take that into account when promoting and paying existing employees. Effectively punishing your (female) employee because she’s not threatening to quit isn’t a good look.

  14. FormerTechie*

    4 happened to me in software engineering. My male coworker and I had, in fact, the *same* qualifications having both completed the same coding bootcamp, yet his salary was notably higher than mine. Fortunately my bosses at the time fought to fix that, but they had to actually go to battle to prove to HR that I deserved the same pay. We were all baffled by HR in this case.

    1. samwise*

      Similar for me in higher ed.

      Boss showed the team a slide with upcoming title bumps (which automatically came with a salary bump). No names, just current and upcoming titles.

      There were only two people in my position. On the slide, one of these people was getting a title/pay bump. And it wasn’t me.

      I was hired three weeks after the other person, same title, same salary. Differences: I had quite a few years more experience, I had more education (he had a masters, I had a masters and doctorate), I was already taking on more responsibility than he was. He was good, I was better. Oh yeah, and he is male, and I am female.

      Everyone at that meeting turned to look at the two of us — dude was smiling, I was not, so everyone *immediately* knew what was going on.

      Turned out dude was offered the promotion to keep him — he ended up leaving within a few weeks for another position at the school.

      I did meet with my boss after the dude left to ask him WTF (not in those words of course). He was embarrassed — he said he didn’t even notice. This from a boss who really walked the talk on fairness and equity.

  15. Higher Ed worker*

    I think there’s a possibility Alison missed here – the LW doesn’t say they were hiring for a senior contributor position, just that they were looking to expand the team. It’s possible the initial offer was for the same title/role as the LW, and the new hire negotiated his title/level.

      1. anecdata*

        Yeah, very common – the other thing that happens is : you make the offer at $X, candidate wants X+10k, which is more than the level 1 pay scale allows. At a lot of companies, it is way easier for hiring manager to go “oh, I actually need to uplevel this role” than to get an out of pay scale salary approved (for good reasons). So you get the money AND the extra pay

        This is also an important data point for the OP – if it a) took a long time to hire and b) the hire ended up being at higher salary than the company originally intended to pay/offered — is your company under market on salaries* overall and are you underpaid? If you graduated in 2020, the sw labor market has been…wild your whole career, and these things change quickly – might be worth just looking at some competitors’ job postings/doing a few interviews/etc just to get a feel for the market where you are

    1. amoeba*

      We also often have job postings for “scientist/senior scientist” in our field. Basically, both is fine, depends on the person they end up hiring.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        Same! And maybe you interview for a scientist but someone applies who has Skill X or Experience Y and it’s clear that for your company they’d be a senior scientist. Things happen.

  16. Rivikah*

    In my organisation, the question to ask would be “Well did you apply for the more senior role?” because around here there are no promotions. There’s only competing for a higher level role.

    It doesn’t sound like that’s likely the case here, but just to mention another possibility.

  17. Health Insurance Nerd*

    I may have misread the letter, but it’s not clear that the LW expressed interest in this role. Did they apply and interview and get passed over? Did they speak to their boss about wanting to be considered? It could be that isn’t the culture at their company, and promotions are initiated by the manager, I’d just be curious if the LW has actively expressed their desire to move up.

    1. Aitch Arr*

      I was wondering this too.

      If this situation were at my company, we would have posted the senior level role and both internal and external candidates could apply. Likely we would have promoted OP into the senior role and opened up her backfill.

    2. Starbuck*

      It seems unclear if they posted it as a Senior level role or not, and that maybe this guy negotiated a title bump during the hiring process. That would make more sense why the LW didn’t apply and seems surprised at the title.

  18. Dutch*

    Or the letter writer would be harder to replace than Jim’s predecessor.

    Hiring Jim means they potentially now have two very adept contributors, but are only paying market value for one. If the LW moved up their role might be replaced either by someone less experienced or someone who wanted more money.

    1. Dr. Hyphem*

      In my (tech-adjacent) organization, backfills can either be for the level of the role of the person who previously had the role or the could be more junior, but you’re never going to backfill a contributor with a senior contributor or a senior contributor with a lead contributor.

      So OP is a contributor but is working at at level that is almost senior. If she moved into this role, they would have to backfill at the contributor level, which means very likely they’d get someone with a lot less experience than she has now. If they hire someone new for the senior contributor role and then they get someone with comparable experience to OP and they keep OP, thus not losing headcount or the overall level of experience within the team.

      That said, the strategic thinking behind these decision could also be influenced by sexism, if they are willing to make these trade-offs for men on the team but not for women. There is nothing in the letter to indicate either way (OP just talked about herself and the new hire, so we don’t know other hiring decisions), but I would be remiss to not address this and act like it is mutually exclusive from sexism.

  19. Mila*

    Another possibility is that they needed to fill the spot, so it had to be an outside person, and this particular outside person negotiated the title as part of the hiring process. So they got it bc they asked for it at a time when the company needed something from them.

  20. I sympathize*

    LW, I sympathize with your being upset, but I want to underscore that being the same on paper as another employee in no way means that you both bring similar value to the company.

    1. My 1st job was with a community newspaper. I (a woman, then mid-20s) was angry when I learned that a young man of comparable age and comparable time in the work world earned 10% more than I did. BUT: He was a general reporter and I was a features writer — his work had more value to the paper’s mission than mine did.

    2. In my 40s, I was one of two copy editors at a major mag, with a woman who was about 25. I had far more experience than she and I was a measurably better copy editor — but when Great Recession layoffs came, I was out and she remained, because she was temperamentally better suited to taking over when the 60-something copy chief retired. (Yes, it stung, and for various reasons I think they were short-sighted — but I understand their decision.)

    In order to make the best decision for yourself, please try to see the bigger picture — that he might have soft skills you lack, or even hard skills. And, you might be unable to see those skills because he’s so new to your shared workplace — and because you’re still a relative newbie to the world of work. Yes, the decision could be sexist or could indicate other significant dysfunction, but please keep an open mind as you explore this situation, and don’t make a rash decision about leaving a place where you’re well-regarded. Good luck.

  21. Elle by the sea*

    It’s not not picking or playing the Devil’s advocate, but I am genuinely curious: how do you prove 4? There are plenty of men more qualified than some woman for a certain position – show stronger leadership potential, willing to commit more, more suited for a certain role, etc. How do you know/prove that it is subconscious or conscious bias and the sole determining factor is gender?

    1. Michelle Smith*

      I’d push back on your framing of the question entirely. “Stronger leadership potential” can be discriminatory code for “man,” since they are sometimes unfairly seen as more assertive and more like leaders just based on their gender and associated stereotypes, while women exhibiting the same qualities are seen as aggressive and unlikeable. Similarly “willing to commit more” is problematic. Is the man willing to commit more or does he just have more support at home, because he’s not expected to be the de facto childcare provider and household manager?

      You know that it’s bias when people with the same qualifications doing the same work are not compensated and treated the same. If Joe and I both graduated from law school in 20xx, went to the same or similar firms (e.g., both big law), both got similar experience in mergers and acquisitions, and both get hired by Company A within a year of each other, I’d expect our titles and compensation to be roughly the same, minus any changes because of changes in the market, my performance at Company A while he was still at his previous firm, and any additional experience he might have gotten in the meantime (like working on some kind of complex matters I didn’t get exposed to).

      I’m not an employment lawyer, but there are tons of law firms that do that kind of work and if you do a search for how to prove equal pay discrimination claims, you’ll see them pop up in the results. That might give you more context than I can give in a comments section.

      1. Elle by the sea*

        I see and thanks for the detailed explanation. But it’s hard to frame my question differently – these qualities are often the most important determining factors for choosing someone for a certain role.

        “Leadership potential” can be neutral – I have seen certain women having more leadership potential than certain men and vice versa. It’s more about personality and inclination. It’s often misused in a gendered way, but how do you know when it’s misused and when it’s not.

        Willing to commit more – yes, a lot depends on how much support you get at home, whether you are single or you have a family, and often women end up juggling more tasks outside work. I’m in a leadership role, but mostly likely I won’t move up to the highest leadership role, unlike some other men and women at my company because they are indeed willing to commit more. I get all the support necessary at home to focus on my career, but even when I was single, I wasn’t willing to do as much overtime as others, because I prioritise work-life balance and care less about moving up to the highest position. My husband is a man and he is the same – people who put in more hours will be promoted over him. Even if I feel it’s unfair, I understand how decisions are made to promote people – both men and women – who prioritise work and career to other pursuits in life. Focus pays off in all areas of life, whether it’s work or family.

        1. Tio*

          A test I use is “can I quantify what leadership potential IS”. What does that mean? Staying calm under pressure? Able to review processes and test for strengths and weaknesses? Able to interact pleasantly with a wide variety of personality types? Good at setting measurable goals, standards, and KPIs with their team? Able to link things up to the big picture? Able to know when to delegate and when to step in directly?

          If you’re struggling to come up with concrete things that say “leadership potential” to you, you may be biased for this person in a variety of ways. If you can, next question – How many people in your current team also have these qualities? How many of them? If you have other people with similar qualities and you weren’t already thinking of them as “leadership potential”, you have a problem.

          In addition, look around the org for context clues. Who is in leadership positions? What levels are the men at vs. the women? How many similar traits do the people in leadership share? (White, male, straight, etc)

          Taking a hard look at these things is great practice regardless, because what has been happening can warp your ideas of how it *should* happen. It becomes normal looking and you don’t try to correct anything because there are enough rationalizations.

        2. Alex*

          Sure “Leadership potential” can be neutral, but it should have actual metrics attached. Does the employee in question present new ideas in meetings? Mentor junior employees? Follow up on issues/ideas with particular skill? Something else relevant to the industry in question? Or if they’re being hired into a senior position, can they provide examples of how they’ve done those things in the past? If “Leadership potential” can’t be better defined than “This person reminds me of me” or “I’d like to have a beer with this person”…well, that’s how you end up with board rooms of people who all look pretty suspiciously similar.

    2. Silver Robin*

      You present your case, and hear their response. Take them seriously as if it is not sexism and then come back again. See if they move goal posts. See if they are supportive of you getting to that level. See how quickly the male counterparts move. Take note of the patterns with other women in that same company: do they get similar treatment? How many women are there in the various levels of leadership? If there are few and you ask the company what they are doing about that, do they respond as if they recognize it is a problem? Have they put tangible effort into rectifying that?

      It is really hard to prove sexism immediately, but you look for patterns, document experiences, talk to other women, and try to trust your gut.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        Absolutely. Discussions with other women from other groups within my last company was how I determined that the subtle sexism we each experienced and could individually rationalize away represented a pattern and was too pervasive for me to stay there. In many ways it’s like a long con – you might notice things along the way that feel off, but nothing obvious, until years have gone by and the evidence accumulates and it’s like a light dawning.

        Watched equally or less qualified men get the assignments that led to promotions? Check. Oh, I got some good assignments but somehow those weren’t the things upper management considered promotion-worthy. “You really need to develop skills by working X projects [that we will continue to assign only to your male counterparts].”

        Watched qualified women get shuttled sideways (and down) out of technical roles into tech-adjacent roles when those roles never went to men? Check. “You have a real talent for this type of work [that somehow no men are ever offered].”

        Learned that some highly skilled women waited years to finally be assigned to a manager that would actually advocate for them, and by then be far behind their male peers in career progression? Check. “You just need to be patient/put in a few more years/wait for the right opportunity [that seem to present themselves to the men much more easily].”

    3. Hlao-roo*

      It’s very difficult to prove someone is sexist or that gender was the sole determining factor in a decision. But there are things that can tip the scales in one direction or another.

      If hiring managers talk about their decision in terms of qualifiable skills (such as impressive accomplishments at his last job, has Specific Skill X, will work well with a difficult personality in your department, and other things listed in 1, 2, and 3) then the hiring decision was less likely to be sexist.

      If instead hiring managers talk about their decision in terms of “leadership potential,” “someone I’d like to have a beer with,” and similar “I just get a good vibe” type of statements, that’s likely to be an indicator of sexism.

      Like Michelle Smith mentioned, “strong leadership potential” is a big indicator of “I want to hire a man.” Strong leadership skills are a different kettle of fish entirely. It’s a good hiring decision to hire a candidate for a leadership role who has demonstrated leadership skills (not just potential).

      1. Elle by the sea*

        I mentioned “leadership potential” because I was hired for that, over men and women with a proven track record. But while I am in the job, I have a hard time getting promoted further, unlike some men and women. And I’m a solid to high performer. What sets them apart is that they are simply putting in more hours and even weekends and prioritise work to family life or private life. And even if all of these people were men, I would have a hard time deciding whether it’s gender bias or something else.

        1. Hlao-roo*

          Yeah, part of what makes it so difficult to prove is that sometimes women are hired for their leadership potential. I think “leadership potential” is an indicator of “sexism probably in play here” but it’s by no means definitive proof.

          I think your hypothetical of “if only people who put in more hours get promoted, and only men put in longer hours, is that gender bias?” is an interesting one. I think perhaps not necessarily gender bias from the higher-up managers who are making the promotion decisions, but it probably speaks to gender bias in society (because men who work longer hours are more likely to have a female partner who takes on the bulk of the home/child-care).

          1. Silver Robin*

            Correct about societal impact versus individual bias. That is what people are talking about when they say that issues like sexism and racism are *systemic*. Nobody within the system has to be personally biased against women (in this case) if the system itself already does it, but the impact is the same. This is also part of where impact>intent rhetoric comes from; an individual may not be intending to have a negative impact, but because they are not acting with enough awareness of wider systems, their impact is harmful.

    4. E*

      In my situation it went like this – I (female) asked for a raise (presenting similar jobs with higher rates and increased workload I had taken on, etc) and was told that my position (not my skills) didn’t warrant higher pay. Less than a month later a man was hired, same title but with less responsibilities and $10,000/yr more than me! This coupled with general vibe of senior management and other comments showed me it was definitely discrimination. I didn’t press it because I knew it wouldn’t go anywhere but left shortly after and within a year made double for almost the same work. I did mention the pay discrepancy when giving notice, didn’t seem to get taken seriously.

    5. Mermaid of the Lunacy*

      That’s why Alison asked “How many women get promoted versus how many men?” There isn’t really a good way to prove it, but you can look at the trends and culture of the company and the LW probably has a pretty good sense of how it works there.

    6. anecdata*

      I try to mentally train myself to think in terms of : is it more likely than not (preponderance of evidence/more than 50% chance); and not “am I 100% certain/could I prove it”, that my gender is holding me back at a company. Because almost certainly, the outcome is going to be I choose to move on to a better environment; you as an individual can’t (almost never) get to lawsuit-level proof

      1. Random Dice*

        Yes. For years I was holding the bag for racists but acting like I had to 100% prove an act was racist, without a shadow of a doubt. But… I don’t actually have to do that. I can learn the general ways that racism manifests and mentally flag behavior as “probably racist” and move on.

        Recognizing bias isn’t a courtroom. We should just try to build better systems, and look at data to find issues, and then work to fix the issues.

    7. Salty Caramel*

      At my previous job, when I pushed back on my supervisor after being told that there was no room for a promotion, I explicitly asked what he had in mind for me when he had said that I would need more ‘leadership training’ before I would be considered. I used the word ‘sexism’ and cited the Prove it Again bias that many women are asked to show again and again they they can, in fact, be an effective leader while men are promoted based on their potential. His response? That he would send me some TED talks to watch as ‘Professional Development.’ I remember staring at him with my jaw on the floor. I left soon after because of that BS.

    8. Clare*

      Story time! When I was in my early 20s I had a red panda styled hoodie with giant red panda ears. It was good quality and very eye-catching. I wore it to make children smile. People of all ages would stare as I walked past, some surreptitiously, some more blatantly. I could tell the difference between those ‘Whoa’ stares and the men who ogled as I walked past no matter what I wore. Could I prove it? Probably not. But I’ve been training the equivalent of a machine learning algorithm for creepy vs not creepy for decades now and I’m pretty confident in my results, even if it’s a black box. It’s the same for sexism at work. If someone who’s been observing their current situation for a while ‘just knows’, they’re right overwhelmingly often. They can tell when it’s because they’re a panda and when it’s because they’re a woman.

      Unfortunately getting the proof is far harder.

    9. Festively Dressed Earl*

      Observe the factors that are concrete instead of nebulous things like “leadership potential” or “gravitas” and go from there. TL;DR try to detach and eliminate the sort of things Alison mentioned in her response. Did Newperson go to a more prestigious school, get a coveted internship, or win some award at university or in their old company? What’s the job market like? Was the company desperate to acquire Newperson’s skill set in a way that they weren’t when LW was hired? Did Newperson simply ask for a better title or more money? If it’s one of these things, then you’ve got a clear plan to advocate for yourself: push for professional development, grow and be conspicuous about it, and ask for better compensation. Not necessarily in that order. Going through this exercise knocks down the whatabout arguments that always come up when mentioning bias AND it builds a solid case for asking for more money/benefits if it turns out bias isn’t the culprit.

      Observe how company treats their employees in general, as other commenters have said. Do they drag their feet about promoting internally or balk at giving merit raises or bonuses? Does the company value LW’s own unique skills and accomplishments as much as they value Newperson’s? Those may be signs that you’re in a beehive even if your employer isn’t discriminating. How many women hold senior positions? Check their Glassdoor reviews; have other people in your position complained about unequal treatment? Do men get a lot of face-time with their superiors, stretch assignments, or career training that women don’t get? That’s discrimination, even if Newperson has a few extras that LW doesn’t. Time to fight, apply for new jobs, or probably both.

      The major problem is making the distinction between giving others the benefit of the doubt and doubting oneself. You don’t have to be identical to another person in every respect to be their equal. I’m a female POC, and I’ve made the mistake before of letting others convince me that I was inferior because I didn’t have the same opportunities and advantages that men/white people/neurotypicals have. Give me the right tools and I will astound you with what I can build.

  22. BellyButton*

    Performance Bias is real… Performance Bias is men are evaluated on their POTENTIAL, where women and often people of color are evaluated on their accomplishments and past performance. So when this happens the assumption is that men are going to better perform than others.

    Speak to your boss. It doesn’t sound like the new guy got the job over you. It read to me like you are inline for a promotion but they also were hiring someone. So find out from your boss what the timeline is for your promotion and what you need to do to get there.

  23. Elbe*

    As someone who has worked in software for years, I can vouch that it’s still very much a thing that men get promoted and are then expected to prove themselves, whereas women are expected to prove themselves before they get promoted. It’s not fair, and it makes a big difference in career trajectories in the long run. So #4 is a very real possibility.

    If they’re struggling to fill the role, it’s also possible that they over-bid on the new hire in order to get him to join the company. Or, as others have suggested, they may have different standards when promoting internally. Either way, it’s not particularly fair, either.

    When the new hire starts and the LW is training him, she’ll be able to get a better sense of how evenly matched they are in terms of ability. If he is no better – or even worse – than she is at the tasks of the job, I think it’s worth having a sit down with her manager about why they chose to hire him instead of promoting her. Even if the convo doesn’t have a great resolution, it’s still good to put it on their radar that the LW is someone notices things like that.

    1. Roland*

      Yup, as a female software engineer who struggles to get promoted while getting amazing feedback from all corners, it’s real and it sucks.

      1. Clare*

        Actions speak louder than words. If they’re saying they value you while showing they don’t, don’t be afraid to move somewhere you’ll be appropriately compensated. Don’t let friendly liars take advantage of your lifelong training to be ‘nice’. Your utilities won’t accept amazing feedback to pay your bills. Stuff ’em.

        1. Elbe*

          The issue is that, when this type of culture is common within an industry, it’s hard to find a place where you’ll be treated fairly. There’s no guarantee that the grass will be greener somewhere else.

          And it’s hard to identify the companies that are good, because male-dominated is the norm. It’s hard to find signs of fairness when you’re interviewing.

  24. r.*

    Regarding “who would work well with a difficult personality in your department, or this guy used to work for a client they’re actively wooing”:

    Legal environments of course differ around the world, but I would be *extremely* careful — and hence reluctant to sustain, were I on the pay/hiring board — around a pay/title differential over those two reasons.

    In the worlds of software developers those just aren’t particularly good reasons for why one developer would be at a regular grade, and the other at a senior grade; and of course if I started to pay people of different protected characteristics differently for reasons that aren’t related to core job performance I’d quickly get closer to ‘pay discrimination’ territory than I really want to be.

    For the first reason, I’d not sustain a grade/pay differential for the new hire unless there was a concrete plan to put them on a teamlead/management track based on their perceived ability to work with difficult personalities. A single affected person and an individual contributor role would not be a good enough reason for me.

    For the second reason, I’d not sustain a grade/pay differential for the new hire unless there was a concrete plan to move them to a presales engineer or otherwise hybrid technical/customer-facing role. Improving client relations just isn’t sufficiently part of the core responsibilities of a software developer for me to want to do this.

    The aspect that LW apparently is qualified to train someone for the role but not yet qualified for the role itself would also be something that I would be extremely critical of, and would want a very good answer for.

    Anyway, that’s my input as someone with a decade of experience managing software developers and running software development projects.

  25. Michelle Smith*

    Please, please, please, talk to your boss using the provided script. It’s going to enlighten you as to which of these options you’re dealing with.

    It would not sit well with me personally to be asked to train the new hire in these circumstances. And I wouldn’t be able to come to terms with it until I had a conversation about it.

  26. Lobstermn*

    LW: It’s almost always 4. You don’t need to “come to terms” with it in terms of thinking that it’s good or right, but you will need to “come to terms” with it in terms of understanding that it’s true. There are good people documenting and analyzing it in ways that will help you cope and mitigate.

  27. Nom*

    Is there a reason you didn’t apply for the open role? Perhaps I’m not understanding how the hiring process worked.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      If it’s like my current and previous employers, it’s because the position wasn’t listed as open or posted.

      1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

        But presumably it was listed SOMEWHERE, because this dude applied and got it. The other possibility being the company deliberately sought him out and wooed him over, but then I think that lends more to the idea he would actually have some unique qualification LW isn’t aware of at this point.

    2. courtbot*

      At my company hiring managers are allowed to hire one level up or down from the posted job grade to allow for negotiating flexibility with candidates. It’s possible the role was posted as an equivalent to LW’s current job so applying wouldn’t have given her any additional promotion leverage but an external hire was able to negotiate it up.

  28. Rose*

    Option 5: the two are actually similar and should be leveled the same at the contributor level. But the market place is competitive and the new hire wouldn’t accept the role without the title.

    I had this happen a lot in the last few years. I interviewed candidates and really liked them at a specific role – but the candidates wouldn’t accept the offer without the more senior title. And we needed folks badly enough HR and the department VPs were ok with offering up.

    1. Redaktorin*

      Yeah, timing is everything.

      I’ve gotten into upper management within 2.5 years of having full-time work in my industry specifically by applying when everybody is hiring and asking for a title bump while I’m at it.

  29. rightokaysure*

    #5 — new employees regularly come to companies with better situations than similarly situated people who are already there. This seems like the actual explanation.

  30. MuseumChick*

    So much good advice in Alison’s response and the comments. I wanted to add one thing, having the exact same work experience and skills on paper does not always translate to real life. For example, I (she/her) was in grad school many years ago and one of my classmates (also she/her) barely passed most of her classes while I and others were knocking it out of the park. But at the end of the day, we all have the same degree on paper. And, one of the most well respected professors in the program took a shine to her and gave her a good reference for a job. On paper, at that point in our careers she was just as skilled/experience as me and my classmates who, in real life, are frankly better at our jobs then she was. In other words, there could be something in his work that is not readily apparent just looking at and comparing the bullet points of your and his careers.

    That being said, I do think you should be suspicious that this is #4 on Alison’s list. I’d strongly encourage you to speak to your boss using Alison’s script.

  31. Boss Scaggs*

    Usually we’re not supposed to speculate if there isn’t info given in the OP, but I guess this whole question is speculation so here’s mine:

    LW says they’ve been trying to hire someone for a while, so could be this guy just hit the market at the right time and they needed to give him the Sr title to get him in the first place.

    I would try to let this go – you say you are knocking it out of the park, getting great praise, and on track to get promoted as well. Just keep doing what you’re doing

    1. Jiminy Cricket*

      Respectfully, as a woman who knocked it out of the park and got great praise for years but had to leave the industry to get the pay and promotions I saw men getting, no, please do not sit tight and keep doing what you’re doing. Make your ambitions known and document your achievements. Ask for what you want and make your case.

      1. Boss Scaggs*

        She should do both – certainly make her ambitions known, but I meant don’t get bogged down in wondering why this or that, just keep doing the great work that you have been.

        1. Jiminy Cricket*

          I guess we’re in violent agreement, then: Don’t get hung up on why, but do not sit passively by and wait to get noticed.

    2. r.*

      That’s a pretty bad reason to be honest.

      First, because it is contraproductive over the long term and an example of penny-wise but pound-foolish. That’s effectively telling LW that they’re willing to pay market rate only for new hires. This, in effect, is the same as suggesting to LW that she places herself on the market … which I somehow doubt a company that’s already struggling to staff is the sort of message that’ll help with the staffing.

      Second, because at least according to the laws I usually have to operate under, it would be perilously close to the pay discrimination. I need to offer comparative pay for comparative work across protected characteristics. The law as written does not care that my reason was not directly intended to discriminate along a protected characteristic. What it cares about is that I must offer comparative pay for comparative work in such circumstances.

      If this argument was advanced in a hypothetical court case one of the very first things the judge would ask our lawyer is “Okay, this I can of course understand. But what did stop your clienbt from getting back into compliance with the law by adjusting LW’s pay/title?”, and at that point we’ll probably look very sad because that’ll likely was the case right there.

      1. Boss Scaggs*

        It might be a bad reason but it happens all the time. If you’re desperate to hire you’ll typically need to offer more. I’m not a lawyer but does it matter that the new guy is hired as a “senior” in terms of comparative pay for comparative work? (and therefore might have slightly different responsibilities)?

        1. Tough Grapes*

          If you can’t afford to pay everyone doing the same work at the same level you can’t afford to run your business and it deserves to fail. Full stop. End of story. No arguments.

          Nobody would argue that a vineyard should give my winery cheaper grapes just because I can’t afford to pay market price. If the business fails because I couldn’t afford stock, tough luck. People like to treat labour as though it’s special or different in order to cheat people out of wages, but fundamentally it’s not. I’m not entitled to your time any more than I’m entitled to your grapes. “It happens all the time” is a shitty argument for why something should continue.

  32. VP of Monitoring Employees' LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles*

    It would be a kick if OP applied to NewGuy’s former employer and got his former job.

  33. Jiminy Cricket*

    Speaking from documented experience, Occam’s Razor says #4. But that doesn’t mean you can go in all fired up to fight the system. You need to make it very clear that you are ambitious and want the senior title, then ask very clearly what you need to do to get there. Then document everything and follow up.

    In my industry, the pay and title differentials, based on “He’s just got a certain je ne sais qua,” are vomit-inducing.

  34. alby*

    Every company I’ve worked at makes it hard to promote, and much easier to hire. Seems like standard corporate dysfunction to keep salaries suppressed. But perfectly reasonable to discuss with the manager, this is another arrow in their quiver to fight for a promotion for the LW.

  35. kina lillet*

    Something else I want to call out: LW, you were hired about a year ago, and this guy is being hired now. You’re due to be promoted to a senior contributor. It’s really, really possible that the difference between “you are hired in 2023 as a software developer I” and “your professional clone but male is hired in 2024 as a software developer II” is…well, that year of experience. I wouldn’t be surprised at this, because a lot of early levels in software engineering are based on things like 1 vs. 2 vs. 5 years of experience–ultimately fairly small differences.

    I know you mentioned that your promotion might be coming at the end of this year, but I think the promotion track may be a bit slower.

    That said, two things. If the difference between “software developer I” and “II” is a little subtle, I would indeed really expect that the new guy’s gender played into it–ie, his projects just sounded more interesting and more senior for “some reason”. (Some reason being sexism).

    And, I wonder if you’re bristling because you’re currently encountering some microaggressions and sexism in your workplace, and this is the most overt sign there is. Are you?

  36. KWu*

    I’m a female software engineer, ~10 years of experience now. Around 3 years of experience seems to be right about when you can get the “senior” title as promotion-by-switching-companies, so this feels to me like your timing was a little early to get the title bump that way and your new coworker’s timing was a little later, plus possibly some negotiation and sexism mixed in as well. I do think you should discuss this with your manager in the hopes of speeding up your promotion case, but if you decide to also look elsewhere, you might get a similar title bump by switching jobs.

  37. Fernie*

    The phrase “comfort presenting to senior audiences” in Alison’s reply struck me, because that was the reason given to me recently for being turned down for FOUR internal roles that would have put me on the next level. I’ve presented to senior audiences throughout my career, and I’ve been told it’s a particular strength of mine, partially from 11 years of teaching in higher education before I started this corporate career. So, what could this phrase mean? If anyone in the Commentariat has some specific suggestions for me on how I can display this skill, they would be most welcome!

    1. I Have RBF*

      The cynical part of me say that actually means “senior audiences are comfortable with you presenting to them”, with the comfort part being “presenting as male”. You can be great at presenting, get lots of praise, but if you don’t have the appendage you don’t get the promotion.

      Seriously, if I’d been assigned male I would be making about $100K more a year, and would be a manager. But people who clock as female have to be three or four times as good to get the same advancement in tech.

      Why yes, I’m bitter, why do you ask?

      1. TechWorker*

        It’s probably not any consolation but I genuinely do not think this is true of every single tech company. I’ve had a lot of self-doubt in my career but I have also had supportive managers and a bunch of promotions… faster advancement than all my male peers at any rate.

    2. Curious*

      It’s late, hope you see this…

      What’s the vibe of your audience? Are you good at mirroring people’s energy?

      Also, you say you taught for 11 years. Are you sure you don’t talk to people like they’re your students? I have friends who taught, sometimes I have remind them who is not her student, dinner conversation doesn’t have to managed like classroom management. If you use illustrations, are they appropriate for your audience (i.e. Georgia font vs. Comic Sans)?

    3. Bunny Lake Is Found*

      It’s kind of hard to identify why you were told you were wrong for 4 different promotions because of a weakness in an area you say you are often praised for. Did you ask anyone for additional information on this critique?

      My only thought is that you point out you worked as an educator for 11 years before your current role, but you don’t say how long you have been in this role for. It is entirely possible that you feel very comfortable presenting to senior audiences, but you haven’t actually demonstrated that in a way that is applicable to what is needed in the senior role.

      Alternatively, maybe they mean less “formally presenting a topic to senior personnel” and more “How you interact in a meeting with your boss, grand boss and person who isn’t either of their bosses but definitely is “over” them both in the hierarchy.” Recognizing when you should demur and defer, when you should speak up and HOW you should do so.

    4. LinesInTheSand*

      Obligatory: I have no idea of the specifics of your situation or what you’ve been told or how you present.

      I went through some presentation coaching at my last job and the most memorable takeaway was that when talking to execs, you talk at their level, not yours. You present concerns that they and only they are in a position to address. You present achievements that contribute to KPIs they are actively monitoring. As an extreme example, you don’t talk about how the bathroom is always out of toilet paper. You do talk about how you are aware the company has experienced an increased rate of attrition that has everyone worried and you’ve identified opportunities to improve morale.

      To me that’s the difference between “comfortable speaking to execs” (which I was) and being able to deliver a message that lands and shows you to be a valuable contributor (which I worked hard on once I realized the difference).

  38. pally*

    Sometimes I wonder if managers just don’t pay attention to women employees.

    They probably offered the senior title because he had skills that they wanted. Only, no one realized that the OP already possesses those skills. In fact, I’d bet those skills are listed on the OP’s resume and were discussed when she was hired. But, management forgot about that. And offered the new guy ‘extra’ because he had those skills.

    It’s like the kid in the candy store crying because Mom won’t buy him the candy he wants. Mom says you have the same candy at home. That seldom quiets the kid.

  39. JadziaDax*

    I had something similar happen to me when I first got hired for my job. I have a degree in the field, had been working as a part-time employee for that department for a couple of years at that point, and had been consistently going above and beyond with my work (and many of my co-workers as well as the department’s assistant manager directly complimented me on said work). I was hired full-time with a salary at the absolute bottom of the pay bracket, with my manager saying “this is all we can give you” when he told me what I would be making in the position. At that point, I was just excited to have health insurance and the ability to work more hours so I could actually get my work done. My job was to lead video development in my department, and when I officially stepped into the role, I got my predecessor’s three-year-old and out of warranty laptop, which could barely run the software I needed to do my job.

    Six months later, a guy who started as a part-time employee around the time I started my full-time role was hired for a similar position to mine, though he’d be reporting to me as the video development lead. He didn’t have a degree in the field, and had only been working for my department for six months at that point. He started out making $5,000+ more a year than I was, and they bought him all new equipment – a video development desktop, a laptop, and an iPad Pro. While I was still limping along with the old dying laptop.

    I’m still angry about this, and it’s been almost a decade since that happened. After the manager responsible for all this left the department, I spoke to my new manager about possibly getting a raise, and she was absolutely horrified to hear about how low my salary was and immediately went to work getting me a pay equity raise, so the problem’s been fixed for a while now, but… seriously. Old misogynistic manager made a lot of decisions biased towards the men in our department.

  40. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    OP, whatever comes of this (and I hope it’s that your company realizes that it is wasting your talent and does better by you) I hope you really look at what just happened and apply to your future.
    If you think you are underqualified for a position, remember this guy and go for it.

  41. Raida*

    Keep in mind that there’s also the options:

    1) After looking hard for an extra person, this one negotiated a pay and/or title bump which was possible due to the business *need* for filling the role

    2) You yourself could be a Senior, but have *not* negotiated the pay and/or title bump and the business doesn’t *need* to pay you more to keep you.

    Both come down to the same advice Alison’s given: discuss with your manager, state your desire for a similar title and/or pay.

    1. BellsStells*

      How would you phrase the discussion with the manager?

      Curious because in last three annual reviews I noted my desire to move up based on deliverables and goals. I meet and exceed new goals as part of the core strategy but same thing every year and no promotion happens and I have asked about what else I need to learn or demonstrate and never get clear feedback. How can one ask to make more traction?

  42. Spicy Tuna*

    I agree with the other posters who are saying that being similar on paper doesn’t always translate.

    I (female) worked with a guy (male). We were both senior managers. He had been at the company a little longer than me. We had undergraduate degrees from the same university. We both had MBAs – his was from a better school than mine. He also had a CPA license and I did not (this was not required, but preferred for our role). I earned a higher salary and also had a bigger bonus % than him, which was additionally compounded by my higher base.

    There were a variety of different reasons for this disparity. Some were tangible – I was willing to work longer hours and take on more difficult projects. Some were nebulous – I just had a better attitude in the office.

  43. lovehater*

    Could it just be that new guy negotiated his way to the more senior title/position? If they had trouble hiring someone, then he had more negotiating power than LW had when she joined?

  44. Teoflo*

    As someone who has participated in countless software engineering interview loops over the years on the interviewer side, the top most likely scenario I can see is that the team had a head count open for a mid-level position when you applied, you were a great candidate and accepted the offer, and got hired. Then, the team had a senior level headcount available later when the new person applied, he was the best candidate and they figure he could at least pass as a senior. I have seen this play out (without gender being a differentiator) numerous times in the past. I fully agree that the best thing you can do is use this as an easy opening to start compelling conversations about your own path to senior. Leveling and experience only get more unrelated as your years of experience increases and the amount of possible extenuating circumstances like described in the main answer only increase, and I think that’s actually fine and reflects business needs.

    All that said, I’m a woman software engineer in my 30s who also comes off as younger than I am, so I have first-hand experience that makes me suspect that that gender bias at least makes it slightly less likely that management are concerned than they might otherwise be to have people with similar experience at different levels

  45. dryman*

    It’s also worth noting that the act of changing companies is typically a catalyst to get a title/salary bump as an inducement to make the move (and people who do hop companies every few years can end up better paid than those remaining in place). That doesn’t make it suck less though! I honk the OP should definitely consider talking with her boss re her similar experience using Alison’s script and see what results; perhaps they could slightly move up the promotion they’re already planning.

    FWIW I was in a similar situation years back (but with new person and old me both male); my boss did slightly move up a promotion for me when confronted, it didn’t matter that much in the long run but was worth it to see boss squirm for a bit lol!

    1. Antilles*

      The inducement part was my thought too, especially if he was already employed somewhere that he was generally okay with.
      -If you offer the same salary and title, he’s going to shrug and decline.
      -Offer a raise and title bump? Okay, now he’s listening…

  46. ToDoList*

    LW, please do talk to your boss using Alison’s excellent script! Your boss should be talking with you about your career path and what’s needed for promotion, but if that isn’t happening, this is a good time to start (and sometimes managers need to be nudged to get the ball rolling re: promotions). I’m also a woman in tech (and an engineering manager) and it’s not a bad thing to ask for feedback and information about your company’s promotion process, especially if nobody has shared it with you yet.

  47. Elsa*

    The explanation for the better title might just be that he asked for that title and you didn’t. Which is why your instinct of “I shouldn’t talk to the boss about this” is the opposite of what you should be doing! Allison’s script is great. And in general you will rarely get raises or promotions if you don’t ask for them.

    1. Elbe*

      I don’t think it’s fair to blame the LW for not asking when the letter specifically states that she’s had conversations regarding the promotion to the higher role, and was even given a time frame. It sounds like she is being proactive.

  48. BellyButton*

    Here is my experience. My global company restructured. I suddenly acquired 5 new direct reports. Two were white men, 20 yrs my senior. They had a higher title and pay and I was their direct manager. I pushed, and pushed hard to have a higher title and pay. I was not only managing them I was creating the work they were delivering (L&D). I asked repeatedly to have my level and pay increase to at least match theirs and was denied multiple times. I had hard facts, and could prove that not only was I managing them I was the one writing all the curriculum and teaching them how to deliver it. I was still denied. I got the head of global L&D and the CEO in room and I laid it out that this very much looked like discrimination and was prepared to get a lawyer, then they gave me the title, level, and pay increase.

  49. Tarragon*

    I feel like one other possibility here is that they have similar background but he was hired a year later—so that would mean he had one more year of previous experience than she did when hired, which at this career stage could easily mean the difference between contributor and senior contributor. In that case, it could be something akin to an oversight, where those in charge haven’t updated their perspective on the internal person to evaluate her the same way as an external candidate. Still not great, but if this is the case and the management are fundamentally fair-minded but just not the most competent, it’s really worth raising with her manager because it could be resolved in her favor (assuming there’s not some meaningful difference in qualifications)

  50. Don't Send Your Kids to Hudson University*

    The question I want to ask LW is whether she was directly competing for the open role. I can’t tell is LW’s resentment is coming from a feeling like she should naturally be promoted to a senior contributor role, but is that how the process actually works in this company? To they treat internal promotions and recruitments for open roles similarly (or do internal promotions happen on a specific cycle). Can LW be promoted only into an open role or is a title change possible as a simple promotion pathway? This sounds like a full recruitment for an open role–was LW in a position to apply to that opening? Did she? The conversation to have with the boss might be one along the lines of seeking clarification about how to be considered for a senior contributor role to ensure that LW can throw her hat in the ring next time.

  51. TG*

    I would train new hire and then go into your boss asking for the title and pay bump now. Be very unemotional but explain you’re doing the work, trained new guy and you’re track record shows you deserve it. Anything other than yes I’d consider looking for a new role. Take it from a women in tech who has had to fight for what I deserve, you want a company that wants to develop you and not nitpick over your title and pay when you clearly deserve it. Good luck!

    1. Oh, just me again!*

      No, don’t wait till training is done. Go now, today! And go in mad. Maybe they can give you a reason – maybe one you don’t want to hear about yourself- but don’t, Don’t, DON’T let it stop you from asking and asking NOW. Immediately.

      1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

        This is not a situation that calls for coming in super hot in an opening volley. LW has lots of room to ramp up her response, but she only has one shot to come in matter of fact and judge whether her boss’s response is reasonable.

        I say this in no small part because, as Alison noted, there may be an ACTUAL reason this guy was hired at a higher level than LW that LW isn’t aware of. It would not bode well for her to angrily demand a higher title only to hear “The role we need him for deals with Quebec and, legally, we need to have someone who is certified to process health care information in both French and English, which he is.” Whereas if she goes in matter of fact she can respond “Oh, that makes sense. But I would like to discuss what the next steps are to move up to that senior level myself”

  52. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    Likely either 4) men or 5) external hires get paid more

    I’d ask your manager what you need to work on to get promoted since you’ve noticed that Jim has similar experience. If she’s any sense she’ll realise you’d be angry unless he brings something extra other than a penis or a shiny new face.

    If you don’t get a good business reason why Jim got the higher post rather than you, then I recommend you start serious job-hunting because otherwise your career progression would likely continue to drag in this company.

  53. BellyButton*

    Everyone needs to understand that “training” does not mean how to do your job, it means how to access systems, company cultural norms. He can do the job, he just needs to know where files are, how to use the software.

  54. Jackie*

    I feel oftentimes those “senior” titles are just about who asks for it. When negotiating, I know several men who asked for “senior” to be added to their title before accepting a job offer, even if it meant no actual difference in responsibilities. Its frustrating for sure and favors men who typically ask for things like that while women oftentimes do not.

  55. EmoZebra*

    Did OP actually apply for the role? Maybe I missed that but I’m not sure I could be upset someone similar to my experience got a higher position than me if they applied for the role but I didn’t. Was the role posted as a senior role? Maybe the new hire asked for the position and OP never did. Did OP ever express interest in being promoted / moving up? Has OP seen his actual resume to know that his skills and qualifications are EXACTLY the same?

    I think there are a lot of other possibilities but we don’t actually know anything except OP graduated at the same time as the new hire.

  56. adult-ish2319*

    This could also be how new-guy marketed himself.
    I once asked for a sign-on bonus and got it – my barely junior co-worker found out and was upset that she didn’t get one; she didn’t ask. (And I’m a woman too)

  57. Lorac*

    Or they’re going to promote you anyways at the end of the year since they think you also deserve to be senior level, but don’t want to do a mid-cycle promotion.

  58. AnonAnon*

    Hiring manager here in the same boat and aware of the optics from your side. It is something I have been concerned about as well. I am in the process for hiring a second person on my team and the job descriptions are the same. However, I may be changing the position to the senior version.
    I am looking for someone with slightly different skills than the first person I hired because my projects have changed. I am also looking for different soft skills. I need someone who can take the reins a little more than the first person I hired.

    For context I am a female hiring manager and hiring people who are junior in their career (3-5 years). First hire was male. Second hire TBD.

  59. BecauseHigherEd*

    Two ways of looking at this.

    I was hired for my current role without a Master’s degree. My colleague who trained me initially had the same title, but more experience and a Master’s degree. Someone who was hired for a position directly below me in the org chart also had a Master’s degree. The hiring decision was based on my experience, transferrable skills (I’d done work that was different but arguably more difficult in some ways), and some strong references (this was according to my now-boss). The hiring decision initially ruffled some feathers, but it ultimately worked out (Also, happy to report I’m almost done with the Master’s degree.) But yes, it’s very possible that this person has a lot of other experience/qualities that don’t appear on a resume but that could have come out in a cover letter, interview, and in the references phase.

    I’m also a woman and I’ve definitely had some pretty sub-par male managers with little-to-no applicable skills. I think you might need to see this person in action before making any judgements.

  60. Sister Administrator*

    Trust your gut and not those equivocating. It’s quite likely to be #4. Signed a woman in tech.

  61. oaktree*

    I’m wondering if I’m missing something. The post doesn’t seem to suggest that OP was even up for the job. It looks like they hired a new person to the team, but gave them a higher title (and presumably salary) than OP, despite similar qualifications. Not that the OP didn’t get the job or even wanted it.

    It seems they may have realized that the position should pay more and OP could have an argument to increase her compensation and title.

  62. Oh, just me again!*

    Be angry, and ket it show! (in a restrained, professional way, of course) I’d start with “Can you give me a satisfactory reason why Joe has a higher title and pay than I do?” and if they come back with anything weak (eg can’t give a specific skill or data point where he outshines you, or give you something subjective- ” like “leadership potential” or suggests you are lacking for advocating for yourself, anything that brings you up short, and reslly makes you think hard about you own deficiency) say: “that isn’t ‘satisfactory’ I think this in violation of the equal pay act (whatever!). I want a title bump NOW, and a raise retroactive to Joe’s starting date!” Then, hang on to that, especially the last part. A “few months” can stretch on and on. insist on the retroactive raise. Say “attorney” if you have to.

    1. TechWorker*

      Tbh if Joe does turn out to be significantly stronger as an engineer (which you would probably know within a few weeks of working with him, but not from graduation date/job history alone) then this would be a very poor strategy. Job performance isn’t determined solely by years in the role. I think LW should use Alison’s phrasing now & then can bring out this if a) nothing happens and b) it becomes apparent Joes performance does not justify the higher title/pay.

    2. annonie*

      This is really bad advice. There’s a way to be firm about what you expect but this isn’t it.

    3. Quiet but determined*

      You can simply ask the manager the reason new guy has a higher title. Being angry when you don’t even have the full picture yet isn’t going to make you win this case. Bullying management into giving you what you want is terrible advice.

  63. Fikly*

    It is, unfortunately, incredibly common for the only path to a better title and pay to be finding another employer, because the standards for hiring someone into a role versus promoting someone into a role are incredibly different.

    After all, why promote someone when you can lead them on for years and get the same work at a lower pay rate (and title)? And even if you don’t assume bad intent, the standard has been that to get promoted, you have to demonstrate x, y, z for some amount of time, whereas to be hired, you don’t need to do that.

    Don’t believe your company when they say they will promote you, because that’s just words and you have no way to hold them to that. If you want a better title and pay, look elsewhere. Maybe you’ll get promoted! Maybe you won’t! But if you look elsewhere, you up your odds, and looking elsewhere doesn’t mean you have to take an offer, it means you find out what is out there.

    1. Chocolate Teapot*

      Yes, that was the experience which led to my last change of job. There was too much work and not enough people to handle it, but due to some internal restructuring the promotion and pay rise I needed wasn’t forthcoming.

      So I went and got my pay rise somewhere else.

  64. nodramalama*

    I feel like im missing something. LW said theyve been trying to hire for this role for a while. Did LW put themselves forward? Why would the company just offer it to her if she hasn’t expressed her interest or applied

  65. Practical Reasons*

    Anyone hired later on, might be offered a higher salary because wages and intro offers go up, even for the same role. Or he asked for a higher salary range when applying, maybe he negotiated money, or asked for a signing bonus and got a higher salary instead. It’s possible he’s got side skills that boosted him, maybe language abilities, who knows. Or, downright sexism.

    These days, there is little employee loyalty, so there’s not much reason to have employer loyalty. The best way to get more money is by getting another job. I’d first work with New Coworker a while so he could be a reference for the job you get, that eventually pays more than he currently makes.

  66. Underemployed Erin*

    You have domain knowledge expertise. You understand the systems and processes of your current company. That type of knowledge is company specific, but it is not necessarily more senior level engineering experience. When I started with my current company, a more junior engineer spent 30 minutes to an hour a week explaining some of the stuff in the code base to me. The QA spent time explaining how we set up our systems.

    That type of knowledge is very company specific knowledge, and a lot of people could explain the basics of what goes on day to day. However, seniority may come with asking deeper questions and picking up on things more quickly.

    A lot of software companies have super specific career ladders now because they weren’t being specific about the skills you needed to be a given level, and they were getting lawsuits from marginalized groups. If your current company has any career ladder guidance of what is expected of a person at each level, ask to look at that.

    It would not be unfair to ask your manager what the new person brought to the table that made him senior and what skills you need to exhibit to get there.

    I brought a lot of knowledge of some specific networking thing that a lot of people at my new company were not comfortable with.

    People who work in small companies can have different experiences. For example, the people pulling really long weeks at really small companies doing very complicated things are going to learn more than the people getting in their 40 hours at small companies working on less ambitious projects when they are in charge of one button on one screen. They may have good managers who coach them really well, or they may have managers that suck. They may be super geniuses. People will progress at different speeds.

    Anyway, the person who trained me was promoted to the same level I was at less than six months after I joined the team. She needed to show leadership skills by running projects and training people. Those leadership skills were the skills that she needed to show in order to get her promotion.

    There is a chance that you are close and showing leadership by training this dude will help you get there. But do spend some time trying to get clear with your manager. If you learn that they don’t promote easily from within, you might want to start looking.

  67. Quiet Lurker*

    By all accounts, I’ve been knocking it out of the park since then. I’ve learned quickly and have started to take on stretch assignments. I’ve been told I’m the best person they’ve ever hired for this role, and that I’m on track for a promotion to senior contributor at the end of this year. Potentially relevant, I’m a woman who reads young.

    When I was a young woman in the workplace, I experienced something very similar to LW. I found out the ‘reasoning’ behind the decision was two-fold: sexism, and the ever-foolish ‘we can’t afford to lose her in this more junior role at the moment, so we’ll delay the promotion’. I did get my promised promotion, although it was a few months later than agreed to, and it did damage my trust in my employer and managers, and left a sour taste in my mouth.

  68. The day of Sue*

    He was the better candidate, for whatever reason, and likely not sexism; no wonder Alison listed it as the least likely possibility. Sure, sexism happens in the workplace and elsewhere, and it has and always will, but to constantly put the blame on sexism when we don’t get what we think we should means missing out on real opportunities to becoming the better candidate. If you have empirical signs of sexism as the reason you weren’t promoted to the position, get out ASAP. If you don’t, ask what it would have taken for you to be in such a role. Don’t just stew; do something about it.

    Also, be careful about reading too much into someone telling you you’re the “best.” Workplaces are full of people who are implicitly treated as though they will naturally inherit whatever role they’re aspiring to, only to be passed over. But good for you for being a great employee. Keep knocking “it” out of the park; perhaps not this moment, but someday, it’ll get you where you want to be.

    1. Sister Administrator*

      Why “likely not sexism”? Allison did not rank the possibilities by likelihood. Constantly blaming sexism might be an error, but being second-guessed about sexism constantly, and being told your observations aren’t “empirical” can make you insane.

  69. Rachel*

    did she… apply for the job? I don’t see in the letter that she put herself in the ring for this open position.

    1. Yossariana*

      It sounds like the opening was for an additional person in the same role she was in, like just an additional Llama Groomer – at least it seemed so at the time, and then when the new hire came in it was at the Senior Llama Groomer level. It didn’t sound to me like it was explicitly posted at only a more senior level.

  70. Kenneth*

    “building healthcare software” I’m going to presume means both of you are software developers.

    What is his *overall* experience compared to yours? Since both of you are developers, did he arrive on the scene with a portfolio of independent software projects and contributions to open source projects that he could point to through a Github profile? And what’s your independent development experience like? Do you have a profile on Github or similar? Are you contributing to projects and/or writing your own?

    Graduating at the same time doesn’t mean you both have the same level of experience *overall*. I’ve been a professional developer since 2005, but prior to that and while working professionally, I was writing my own software and contributing to open source projects where I could. And I’d been a hobbyist programmer in some fashion since high school.

    So, again, you two I doubt have the same level of experience overall.

  71. Keymaster in absentia*

    Seen this happen in IT at least twice now – one time I said nothing and the other time I fought back.

    When I fought back was a more clear situation where a new guy came into the team at a much higher salary than the rest of us despite having less experience. We talked among ourselves and found out that the lowest paid fell into one or both of the categories: women and gay.

    Armed with that we went to our boss who told us to ‘grow up and stop looking for things to make you a victim’ and then traipsed to HR who were far more receptive. In the end our pay was raised to new guys level.

    Collective action is the way. Now this is harder in your case, but could you discuss with others what their pay and experience is? If you see a clear demarcation then it’s worth a fight.

    And for what it’s worth I’d have promoted you. Someone who knows our internal systems and code is always more worthwhile than an outsider who doesn’t know system X crashes to desktop if you feed a sql injection statement into field F by mistake.

  72. ijustworkhere*

    I think the comment about people being more than a resume is important. Some of the competencies associated with strong leadership show up in interviews, not on paper. They show up in accomplishments that may only be uncovered in an interview process.

    As an older woman myself I am well acquainted with age and gender bias, but it’s not always a factor if a guy..or a younger person…gets hired instead of me. It is well worth probing in the way that Allison suggests to find out whether there is some bias here that needs to be called out; or to get more information about where you need to grow professionally to be ready for a similar opportunity.

  73. Rosemary*

    It kind of reminds me how cable or cellular companies will offer a much better deal to new customers to get their business, while current customers are left paying more. Maybe the only way this guy would take the job was if he were given the higher title. (I do think this could tie into #4 – men who negotiate for higher titles/salaries are often viewed as “assertive” and “go-getters”…whereas women who do the same are seen as “pushy” and “demanding”..)

  74. Chalk Dust In The Wind*

    At the beginning of my career, I was working as a software engineer as a college intern, and the company hired someone who wasn’t yet legally an adult, and with no formal education beyond high school (which it wasn’t entirely clear he’d completed) as a full-time engineer making “real” engineer pay.

    I was offended by this for a few days, until I realized exactly how brilliant this coworker was — watching him assemble a driver for a complicated piece of hardware working only off the written specifications, and it worked the first time. (He was also, despite his youth, influential in the open-source community making the tools our company existed to create specialized versions of).

    Which is to say — YMMV, but I’ve been in a place where the knee-jerk reaction turned out not to be the right one.

  75. Yep, it's sexism*

    #4, definitely, BUT I also want to note:

    a. You may be doing so well in your current role that your company sees no upside in promoting you out of the role. Then they will have to hire someone who will probably not be as good as you at the role.

    b. Check around very carefully to see how you are perceived at your company. I had great difficulty breaking out of Role A at one company because the person in Role B when I joined the company trashed my abilities with my then-boss when I wasn’t around. Even years after that person left the company, whenever my projects included some of the responsibilities of Role B, I had to bring in multiple pieces of evidence to prove that I had succeeded with those tasks.

  76. Open Positions*

    There’s also the answer that “they were hiring at a senior contributor level and he was the best person who qualified”. And if you had applied for it as an outside candidate you might have been the best person who qualified. In many government-style jobs you can’t just automatically move up, there’s a lot of paperwork. I accepted my job at the entry level position because it was the only thing being offered. One of my coworkers was hired in with less experience than me at the higher position simply because it was advertised that way. It’s a thing.

  77. Distractinator*

    As a snapshot of my company’s hiring practices, if someone is on a borderline of job titles (e.g. degree+experience vs higher degree) it’s easier to hire someone in a the higher title than it is to get them promoted after hiring lower. I think you should absolutely take this to your manager, with the mindset not that he’s stealing a promotion from you, but more of “how can we use this comparably-experienced new hire’s title as a lever arm to get me the same”

  78. Bob*

    It’s a sad but important life lesson that it’s easier to come in at a higher level than to be promoted to it internally. The role was likely posted as senior and the other guy applied and got it. It doesn’t make sense in most cases and doesn’t seem fair but it’s how it works at most places unfortunately.

  79. BZ*

    One thing that is quite likely in my experience is they had to give the higher pay and title in order to land the new employee. It is also quite possible your direct manager is using the inequity to make a stronger case for your promotion. As a manager, I’ve often used inequities to get the changes I was trying to get for my reports. Some managers fear inequities (because it is not fair), but they can be a good source for change.

  80. Venus*

    the writer doesn’t say whether she actually applied for the senior position or was given the opportunity too… if not it would definitely be worth asking what this process is. I would be asking for feedback from my manager about what they are wanting for a promotion and set a timescale for yourself as to how long you are willing to work towards that. if that time frame passes with no sign of development then take your skills elsewhere

  81. Hannah*

    Not covered, but a real possibility: the new person asked for the title as a negotiation in hiring. “I would like to take this position with c company, but in order to make the jump from b LLC, I need these things.”

    Also, since the pandemic, employers have had to offer more to new hires in order to fill positions. It could have been that they had to offer a better title/position to attract the type of hire they wanted.

  82. Hannah*

    Not covered but a real possibility: the new person asked for the title as a negotiation in hiring. “I would like to take this position with c company, but in order to make the jump from b LLC, I need these things.”

    Also, since the pandemic, employers have had to offer more to new hires

  83. Dr. Hyphem*

    A few years ago, my department had like 3 people leave, but one of them was pretty high level, so it created a promotion cascade where one of our directors was promoted into the high level role, a few high level individual contributors were promoted to directors, and some mid-level individual contributors were promoted to the higher level, and then we hired for the mid-level positions externally. That process took about 3x as long as it would have had the original roles been filled externally, because as each person moved into their new role, their backfill had to be approved and the process had to begin anew (I do think it was ultimately good for the team, and it did happen during a slower time of the year, so this is not a complaint).

    All of this to say, bringing in a external candidate may have been quicker, because they didn’t want to have to do a second search or wait longer to have full headcount.

  84. Craig*

    I do like Alison’s wording. It could be reason 4, but it could equally be another reason. The wording should help get to the real reason, without sounding accusatory.

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