#EqualPay: The gender gap in the tech industry (Women’s Day special)

#EqualPay. #MeToo. #HeforShe. These were the headline-grabbing hashtags in 2019, highlighting the issues women face towards achieving parity with men.

In the tech industry, gender pay gap is always a hot topic, dominating the discussion and debate. A study conducted by global tech jobs-rating firm Glassdoor, released in the first quarter of 2019, revealed that the gender pay gap remains real in the US and around the world. Even after statistically comparing workers with similar job titles and employers, with comparable education, experience and locations, there was still a significant difference between male and female pay in all eight countries examined. Although, on a positive note, in comparison with the 2016 study, the had gap narrowed in four (US, UK, France and Australia) of the five countries studied.

In November 2019, the World Economic Forum (WEF) released its annual Global Gender Gap Report 2020 that revealed very sobering findings. It showed that women overall may have to wait 250 years to achieve economic (relating to pay, advancement, etc.) parity. The report surveyed 153 countries in four categories: politics, economics, education and health. In Western Europe, the number is much lower at 54 years. The same report in 2018 stated that unless more women were encouraged to enter fields such as science, technology and engineering, the gender gap could widen. In the 2019 report, there are disproportionate inequalities in almost all of the job sectors related to the technology of the future – like cloud computing, engineering, data and AI, and product development. The collective gender pay gap for the EU-28 countries stood at 16%, meaning that women in the EU work 2 months extra unpaid each year compared to men. The silver lining in the report is that 7 out of the top 10 most gender equal countries are in Europe. Topping the list is Iceland, in all categories, for 11 years in a row. It has closed almost 88% of its overall gender gap, making its gap 12%. Iceland is followed by Norway (2nd), Finland (3rd) and Sweden (4th). Other Europeans in the top 10 are Ireland (7th), Spain (8th) and Germany (10th).

Worldwide, despite improvements in the gender pay gap in countries with substantial tech economies, the perception remains especially among women, that the gender pay gap is still an issue. A survey on over 800 women in tech revealed over half of the women respondents believe that the pay gap is still an issue. In the US, another survey revealed 60% of women were offered lower salaries compared to men for the same role at the same company. The pay gap widens when considering minorities. The average gender pay gap in US tech is 3% – but the research showed that for LGBTQ women that gap rises to 8%, while Hispanic women are paid 9% less than their white male counterparts. Black women were being paid just $0.89 for every dollar earned by white men in their companies, the survey found.

In the UK, the overall gender pay gap is at 18.3% higher than the EU-28 average (16%). Even at  the top of the totem pole, female COOs in tech are consistently underpaid for doing the same job, at the same level, in the same industry, in the same city, as men, with an average pay gap of over 12%. The US and the UK have equal pay legislation that dates back to the 1960’s.

The bottom line is that the gender pay gap, overall and in the tech industry, remains an issue worldwide. Women still do significant extra unpaid work, experience discrimination based on ethnicity, sexual orientation and age, miss out on work to take career breaks, face the glass ceiling and work in a segregated labour market.

There are measures in place – policies and laws safeguarding and ensuring a direction towards gender parity and active participation by the private sector. In the tech industry, tech giants lead the pack by being transparent, publishing diversity and inclusion reports – Google, Uber, Amazon, Apple and many others do this. Transparency sparks awareness and opens up discussion on how to improve the status quo. Hiring and rewarding based on meritocracy are also advocated by the tech industry.

There is still a long way to go but the tech industry is at a good starting point. Creating awareness through data and transparency, instilling gender equality policies and mindsets at the core of the company culture, using meritocracy to hire and reward – these are all steps in the right direction.

Do you want to take some action? Getting informed is one way to move forward. Take a look at our other Women’s Day pieces for more insights and advice below:

“To tackle the investment diversity gap, we have to put weight behind it”: Interview with Borski Fund’s partner, Simone (Women’s Day special)

“Look up funds that are targeting you as founders”: Interview with founder of Unconventional Ventures, Thea (Women’s Day special)

“The best thing companies can do is listen to women”: Interview with Clue’s founder Ida (Women’s Day special)

10 promising femtech startups to watch in 2020 (Women’s Day special)