By Tanya Tarr of Forbes
Women in technology have a curious history. While women helped create the field of computer technology, their current representation within the industry is dwindling. In fact, a woman executive named Ruth Amonette was IBM’s first woman vice president in 1943. Margaret Hamilton coined the phrase “software engineering,” and led the team that made sure Apollo 11 landed on the moon in 1969. Yet as the industry has aged, fewer women are entering or advancing in tech. A commonly cited statistic is that women make up only about 24% of computer-related tech workers, with evidence that this number could be declining.
Despite this history, a study released today by Hired, Inc. shows that though incremental, women’s representation among tech job candidates is growing. Hired is a job-searching platform that matches tech talent with tech companies, and its report The State of Wage Inequality in the Workplace shows both the encouraging and depressing sides of being a woman job-seeker in the technology industry. The report highlights differences in actual pay between women and men in the industry as well as gaps in pay expectations. It also details pay gap by city, job title, race and sexual orientation, tapping the data of 420,000 interview requests and individual survey responses from more than 1,200 candidates. Gender in the report was self-identified, and non-gender-conforming participants were not included. Hired hopes that by making the data around self-identified gender more transparent, this clear-eyed view of the data could help move the industry a little faster towards gender parity.
Though the statistics still favor male job applicants, Hired found that in the last year, women’s representation in the candidate pool has increased by 7% overall. Yet when gender is controlled for, women are still underrepresented candidates 16% of the time. While women candidates are increasing in number, this doesn’t make up for the fact that men make up significantly more than half of the applicant pool:
Another stunning but perhaps unsurprising finding was that 63% of the time, men were offered higher salaries than women for the same role at the same company. The report found that companies were offering women between 4% and a whopping 45% less starting pay for the same job. Women in tech also tended to undervalue their market worth, asking for less pay 66% of the time, and would often ask for 6% less salary than their male counterparts.
At the same time, women tech workers know they are being underpaid, regardless of whether or not they underbid themselves. When women applicants were asked about whether they knew if they were being paid less than their male colleagues for the same job, 54% reported that they knew they were. This is in sharp contrast to the 19% of men who had experienced the same dynamic.
While nearly three-fourths of women surveyed believe that gender can impact pay, a majority of men (53%) also agree that gender identity can impact pay. The interesting point here is the majority agreement on how gender shapes earning potential.
What’s even more interesting is that having a pay gap is considered an unattractive quality by both genders. A very strong majority of women (84%) said that negative attention around having a pay gap would also negatively impact their opinion of that company, with 50% of men agreeing as well. This finding suggests that if a company wants to attract key talent, taking steps to eliminate pay gaps within their company would be a clear recruitment tool for all genders.
This point isn’t lost on Matt Rigdon. Rigdon is the Director of Recruiting and Human Resources at Searchmetrics, Inc. Searchmetrics, like many other forward-thinking companies in the United States, decided to voluntarily get certified as an equal pay company because they wanted to send a clear signal on how their company felt about equal pay. Rather than run an audit internally, they chose SameWorks to be a third-party auditor.
For Rigdon and Searchmetrics, getting certified was simply the right thing to do. “Really, it’s about our organization doing what’s right and fair. Getting certified is a way to learn exactly what is going on with wages, as well as find out what we have to do to correct any pay differences.” Rigdon mentioned that being an equal pay company was a way to push back against the male-dominated dynamic in Silicon Valley and attract the talent that will help their organization be successful. “If we treat our employees equitably, it’s our hope that they will stick around longer and be better performers. That’s going to drive recruitment, make better technology and ultimately, profit. But even if it doesn’t, it’s still the right thing to do,” he said. In fact, a growing majority agree with Rigdon. Hired found that 66% of all respondents feel that the US should adopt laws like the one recently passed by Iceland, requiring companies prove that they pay fair wages.
San Francisco and Boston are better for women in tech than other major cities. San Francisco has the lowest gap, at 8% and Seattle, at 11%, has the highest. Hired also found that New York and Los Angeles have a 10% pay gap.
Of the cities examined, Boston is the only city where women in tech are overrepresented at 5%, which suggests to them that recruitment efforts have been successful. Other cities like San Francisco (-14%), New York (-17%), Seattle (-25%) and Los Angeles (-29%) all have a significant lack of representation in terms of women job applicants.
When it comes to job title, project managers have the smallest gap at 4% or half the size of the gap for software engineering, data science and design, which have an 8% earning gap.
The gender wage gap also increases with age. When women start in their careers, between the ages 20-25, they make $0.97 for every dollar men in similar roles earn. The gap widens by the time workers are in their forties, increasing to $0.90 on the dollar. Women in their mid-thirties, or around 10 or more years in the industry, have a different gap. Women in this age group often ask for 2% less than their male counterparts but are often paid 7% lower.
Hired found that Hispanic and Black women are paid the least. White and Asian men earn the most money, and White women earn 96 cents on the dollar compared to White men. White women also outpace the earning of Black and Hispanic men, who earn 94 cents on the dollar.
The sexual orientation of a tech worker also influences their salary. “When we dug into other factors such as race, LGBTQ+ status, and age, we found that they all impact a candidate’s salary expectations and ultimately the salaries they’re offered,” said Kelli Dragovich, SVP of People at Hired. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. “Many times the intersection of these identities compounds to widen the gap and a closer look can uncover new insights,” Dragovich said. She noted that the report found that identifying as LGBTQ+ negatively affects salaries for men, but women who identify as LGBTQ+ actually make more money than other females.
When it comes to effectively combatting bias and closing earning gaps, study after study shows that transparency wins the day. “We want to arm tech workers and companies with data. This report gives job candidates the information they need to ask for what they’re worth and prompts companies to define their own compensation philosophy and hiring best practices,” said Mehul Patel, CEO at Hired. As companies make changes, individuals can take action as well. Negotiating a job offer can affect earning potential. Dragovich offered negotiation tips for women in tech who might be negotiating salary at their next job. These takeaways include:
Rely on the data: Use existing data, such as Hired’s State of Salaries report to determine what workers in your market with the same experience and skill set are earning is a good place to start. Other resources to leverage are salary calculators or resources like Payscale, that can help you determine exactly what your skill set is worth in the market.
Aim high: After you look at the data, ask for the high side of your expected salary range. Many employers will meet you halfway, so if you start on the low side you may end up disappointed.
Never use your current salary as a starting point: Using past earnings to inform salary decisions only perpetuates the wage gap. In some states and cities, it’s actually illegal to ask for this information. Focus on the salary of the job you’re interviewing for.
Avoid coworker comparisons: You’ll be more successful if you rely on objective salary data to support your argument verse comparing yourself to colleagues. Again, focus on the job title and description.
Ask about the compensation philosophy: If you’re unhappy with what a company is offering, ask how the company arrived at the proposed salary and the benchmarks that are being considered for your level and skill sets.
How do you feel about this Gender Gap data? Sound off in the comments below!