Even in the upper echelons of the tech world, unequal pay is a problem
By Laurie Vazquez
Big Think, October 28, 2016 —
Even in the upper echelons of the tech world, unequal pay is a problem.
Salary research company Paysa wanted to understand the scope of the problem, so they did what they do best: gather and crunch data. As they explain on their blog, they looked at 62 early-stage companies and 1,143 jobs in the San Francisco Bay area to figure out the scope of the pay gap between men and women in tech. Here’s what they found.
Of the 1,143 jobs Paysa reviewed, women only held 50 of them — and those positions skew towards women. 95% of Executive Assistant jobs are staffed by women. 63% of VP Human Resources jobs are staffed by women. Higher paying positions, like Executive Project Managers and Chief of Staff, are only staffed by women 45% and 46% of the time, respectively. That means women who want to move into higher paying positions would have fewer female coworkers, mentors, and peers to help them. That’s not an ideal situation for getting more women into the industry, as fellow salary research company PayScale points out:
“If you work in tech and manage to get yourself a good job, the biggest challenge may be finding a work environment where you feel like part of the team, valued equally with the guys.”
It’s also not ideal for helping women learn technical skills that could lead to better jobs with better pay. As Paysa explains on their blog, “women make up an average of 26 percent of the workforce across multiple industries in technical job roles.” Worst of all? “Jobs in the Computer Programing Services industry (average salary of $205,000) and Ride-Sharing Services (average salary of $268,000) have only 23 percent of their positions staffed by women.”
The biggest takeaway here is that men hold the vast majority of high-paying jobs. Specifically for this sample size, positions where women make up less than 50% of the workforce the average pay is $119,000. That may sound like a lot of money, but that’s peanuts in the tech world:
That graph above is supposed to have red and blue dots, but because women held so few jobs it kind of broke the graph.
That said, gender preference can work in favor of women, too. There are industries where women earn more than men, as Paysa points out. “The highest difference in favor of women is almost 9 percent in the Publishing and Printing industry… but even then, [no industry] has a double-digit difference [emphasis theirs].”
Geography has a lot to do with those numbers, too, as Paysa discovered:
Berkeley, where there is an 8.6 percent gap between male and female salaries, has the lowest percentage of women employed (24 percent). In Palo Alto, where 26 percent of the workforce is female, there is a 4.2 percent difference in wages. The smallest difference in wages is found in San Ramon, where men typically earn 1.3 percent more than women. The city of San Ramon holds one of the highest proportions of women in the workforce (29 percent), fourth only to San Jose, Fremont, and Pleasanton.
Those numbers sound dire, but they’re impacted by geography, too. Generally speaking, the pay gap is much smaller outside the Bay Area. As The New York Times reports, “female computer scientists make 89 percent of what men in the same occupation make, controlling for age, race, hours, and education, according to data from Claudia Goldin, a Harvard University labor economist and expert on women and the economy.
For engineering managers, pay is just about equal.” The Times is unclear about Goldin draws her sample from, but her numbers are backed up by fellow salary research company Comparably. Comparably surveyed 10,000 tech workers and discovered the biggest pay discrepancy by gender is actually in Atlanta — and the smallest is in Salt Lake City.
The reason for the pay discrepancies vary, too. None of the salary research companies offered any answers, but Comparably’s data seems to suggest that age and education are important factors. The Times reports that Goldin “concluded that it was the job itself — not selection bias because of the small number of women in tech or features of particular industries — that makes the difference.” That seems difficult to believe given these surveys, but perhaps her research used a larger sample size that better demonstrates that theory. Then again, The Times piece was written in 2014 whereas the salary research companies all got their data from the last 12 months.
Until we see data substantiating Goldin’s research, these surveys are incredibly helpful. While the Paysa one was incredibly focused, it — like the others cited here — shed helpful light on specific aspects of the glass ceiling women in tech are trying to smash. The best way to fix it? Flexible hours, according to Goldin in The Times, “The key reason women in tech fare better in terms of salary is that tech jobs tend to offer more flexibility in terms of where and when people work–the most important element in eliminating the pay gap, according to Ms. Goldin’s research.” Companies like PayPal, SalesForce, and Yahoo are taking notice and offering greater flexibility in order to end the gender pay gap.
Hopefully more tech companies will do the same.