The gender pay gap in tech: What are the contributing factors?

David Hicks takes a look at potential causes to the gender pay gap in the tech industry.

Research has found that in mid-sized UK technology firms, men were found to be paid 17 per cent more than women. But how far do factors such as education and career progression contribute to a tech worker’s salary, or is gender the main influence?

Let’s take a look at potential causes to the gender pay gap in the tech industry.

Should gender stereotypes in technology career choices be scrapped completely?

It is safe to say that the technology industry is male-dominated; research shows that less than one in ten women are in a leadership role in the sector. Some may argue that, simply, there are industries that attract and appeal to women more, and tech is one that attracts more men.

Considering we start to show an interest in what we want to be when we ‘grow-up’ from as young as primary school, it’s important to look at the career choices that are made in the run-up to university when exploring the tech gender pay gap. Both boys and girls are equally as likely to study technology related subjects up until GCSE level, but research has shown fewer females continue these studies into A-level and beyond. This could suggest that by A-levels, girls are preparing to start careers in female-dominated industries such as childcare and educational services.

However we can’t ignore the women that do continue their tech studies and go into tech roles, albeit they may be in the minority. Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer is a prime example. Mayer’s tech career started at university, where she graduated with a degree in Symbolic Systems and a Masters in Computer Science, and then went on to join Google when it was just a startup. After working as Google’s first female engineer for 13 years, Mayer then moved on to become CEO of Yahoo.

Education is the same for men and women, so shouldn’t employment be equal too?

Throughout a University course, everyone studies the same subjects and once graduated, should be in an equal position when applying for a job role. However, Office for National Statistics figures have found that female programmers earn 22 per cent less than male programmes.

Research has found that the average salary for a programme manager is £83, 125; if this was based on a male’s salary, a female could be earning £64, 837 – almost £20k less than a man in the same role.

Not only that, to become a CTO for one of the world’s top tech firms, it will take someone an average of 24 years from leaving higher education to becoming CTO, working in multiple job roles and for various companies along the way. Is this process the same for both men and women, or will women be faced with a much tougher career path to a high-level tech position?

How has the amount of women working in tech changed over the recent years?

Research firm Gartner has found that the number of female CIOs (chief information officers) has remained at around 13 per cent for the last ten years. Whilst this lack of increase or decrease in the industry could mean that simply, as we touched on before, the tech sector just does not attract as many women as it does men, it gives us reassurance that women are not being deterred from the industry over time.

Wise is an organisation who campaign for gender balance in science, technology and engineering, and their aim is to increase the number of females in this industry to 30 per cent by 2020, suggesting that we can only expect the number of female CIOS, CTOs and tech workers to increase over the coming decades.

Is the topic of pay and gender the same in tech startups as it is in big firms?

Research carried out by Hired has shown that the tech gender pay gap is most prominent in medium-sized firms, in comparison to SMEs with less than 200 staff and larger corporations who have more than than 1,000 employees. However, from 2018, businesses with more than 250 employees will have to disclose the salaries of both their male and female staff, which could, in turn, reduce this gender pay gap in medium-sized businesses.

And what about women who want to found their own tech business? We are seeing more women starting their own businesses, but the start-up gender gap is still highly prominent in the tech industry; research by Harvard Business Review has found that in venture capital-financed tech start-ups, only 9 per cent of entrepreneurs are women.

Does equality between men and women in the tech industry reduce as their careers progress?

A root cause for the gender pay gap could not only be linked to a failure to attract women to the tech industry, but a failure to retain them. A study by Harvard Business Review found that women were dropping out of the tech industry due to a ‘hostile’ male culture and a lack of a clear career path.

Mercer found that the tech industry has an equal amount of men and women working in lower-level roles, but a lack of progression for women starts to show in the mid-level and executive roles; the amount of male tech workers jumps from 51 per cent male at junior level, to 75 per cent at the mid-level. At executive level, women make up just 13 per cent.

So, where does the gender pay gap in the tech industry go from here?

It seems work is still needed to reduce the gender pay gap in the tech sector, as both men and women are undertaking the same studies and education to break into the industry but, once employed, women are being paid significantly less.

Tom Castley, VP EMEA of Xactly, believes ‘tech is a vital sector for the UK economy, and only by moving beyond the outdated gender pay gap can we secure its success for the future.’ This positive insight, along with campaigning for equal pay rights, suggests we can expect the difference in men and women’s salaries in tech to only get smaller.

David Hicks is specialist trainer at Agil8.

Further reading on pay gap

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Gender pay gap

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