What We Can Do About The Gender Pay Gap In Tech

Last week, I had the amazing opportunity to speak at ACT-W, ChickTech’s regional conference for talented women and individuals. It gives them the chance to grow their community and get on the right track with their careers. I feel excited and motivated to use this forum to continue the conversation forward.

I touched on this a little bit in my last post about unconscious bias, but there’s more at play here. We live in a time when employers regularly ask candidates for their salary history. Most candidates don’t object and provide all of that information without realizing that this is actually perpetuating the wage gap. It’s one of the many reasons why Massachusetts signed a new equal pay act that stops employers from asking job seekers about their salary history. When workers are compensated based on their past salaries, it only makes the differences worse because women are already earning less than men across different industries.

This also contributes to unconscious bias in hiring decisions. People tend to make judgements on what candidates earned in their past positions. It influences their decision to make compensation offers based on salary history and not skills.

At the moment, women in tech under age 25 earn 29 percent less than men at the same age, according to a report from Comparably.

However, the gap in pay between men and women aged 50 and above drops to just five percent.

It also varies by ethnicity.

 

The gender gap for women in tech wasn’t always as vast as it is today. In fact, women in tech today have more obstacles to overcome. The 2013 documentary, Debugging the Gender Gap by filmmaker Robin Hauser Reynolds, reveals that women accounted for 37 percent of computer science graduates 30 years ago. Compare that to 14 percent in 2013.

The decline started in the 80’s, when most of the marketing for home computers was targeted at boys. Culturally, computers have become increasingly associated with men ever since. Women, however, weren’t encouraged  to learn about computers when they were young. Due to that decline, they had fewer female role models in computer science compared to women older than them. The stereotypes that permeate the male-dominated tech industry today are another result of the decline. These factors, among others, are part of the reason why women are less likely to get into the field, or leave it earlier than men when they do land a job.

At the rate of the progress we’re making now, the gender gap will close by the year of 2152 according to the American Association of University Women (AAUW)

 

That’s a long time for women to spend trying to catch up with the guys.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to wait 135 years for the gap to bridge itself.

There are a number of ways we can make progress right now toward pay equality, especially in the tech space.

1. Attend or speak at conferences that promote women in tech.

The ACT-W is one of the many conferences that happen each year to promote women in tech. By getting involved with an event that promotes women in tech, you can directly make an impact on efforts toward closing the pay gap.

2 . Donate to programs that educate women interested in tech careers.

There are several programs that work toward improving the access women of all ages have to tech resources. I’ve listed some programs below that anyone can donate to.

4. Volunteer at or sponsor events that promote women in tech.

Without dedicated volunteers and sponsors, events that promote great causes wouldn’t even exist. Instead of donating money to an event that supports women in tech, why not donate your time? You could even host your own event.

5. Use your own sphere of influence to support.

By writing about the topic or starting online discussions, you can use your personal sphere of influence to start a conversation to drive awareness. You can also become a mentee to a woman in tech to help her address any obstacles that come up.

While we’re on the topic, I also wanted to point you to these resources that help women in tech:

Skillcrush

League of Women Coders

Girls Who Code

ChickTech

Fly Technista

ARA (for mentors and mentees)

Ada Initiative

Tech Lady Hackathon

Black Girls Code

Girls Develop It

Hackbright Academy

Py Ladies

RailsBridge

Techfest club

Women Who Code

You can find a more detailed list of resources here.

 

If you’re a woman in tech…

There are a handful of ways you can get ahead of the pay gap, especially early on in your career. First of all, the quality of your work should be your priority. No matter what, always be the best employee you can and continue to look for ways to improve.

Be transparent and assertive. Don't be afraid to ask for what you deserve, especially since your male counterparts are already exercising this ingrained behavior. It means that you’re clear about what you want, where you stand and what you expect from a workplace. Research what salary you can expect at any given job based on where you live or want to live. Aside from salary, also research the culture and general level of happiness of current employees.

 

When you land a job, seek out others who can be work especially those who support women. Pick their brains about how you can avoid getting trapped in the pay gap. Talk to them about other ways companies can support women, such as maternity and family leave, access to tech development and personal development resources like coaching and management training.

And don’t forget to utilize the resources available to you. You can attend meetups in your area of expertise, or join a branch of professional organizations like the AAUW. Your community is one of the best resources for answers and advice on how to get the benefits and salary you deserve.

It’s crazy how the number of women in tech careers has not risen each decade, even as the field advances and grows.

Creating well-rounded teams requires diverse employees with different perspectives and skill sets that add value both internally and externally. It’s not just the tech industry that needs to change. Companies that don’t actively look for diverse candidates miss out on those benefits.

It’s up to us to inspire young girls to pursue their passions and demand what they deserve at work. What they need is more role models and opportunities to break into the industries they want.

Interested in joining the conversation?

Reach out to me directly at laura@meredithconsultingllc.com.