Equal Pay Day Is a Good Reminder of How Much It Still Sucks to Be a Woman in Tech

Image: Getty
Image: Getty

Today is Equal Pay Day, which is so chosen because it marks, on average, how much longer a woman would have to work to make the same as a man did during the previous year. Women across the country are... well, not quite “celebrating,” but marking the day with events and protests, and probably more than a few private grievances about their overpaid shithead male colleagues and bosses. But while the pay gap pervades most occupations, it’s often particularly pronounced at higher income levels—which many jobs in tech are.

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In fact, Equal Pay Day serves as a good—and by “good” we mean distressing, sad, and lonely—reminder of how difficult it is to be a woman working in the tech industry, even besides the economics.

First, the pay gap itself. While it isn’t as bad as in other occupations—even other high-compensation jobs, like medicine—there are still problems, particularly for certain demographics. According to the tech job website Hired, while white women in tech earn 90 cents for every dollar a white man earns, black women earn just 79 cents. Younger women reportedly face a much bigger gap than older women in tech, too.

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But that, of course, only happens if they can get a job in the first place. Women are vastly underrepresented in tech jobs, particularly at higher levels. According to a LinkedIn study released last week using the site’s own salary data, among the highest-paying jobs in America, women make up far less than half of leadership roles, and that’s especially true of tech jobs. The top three roles where women are most underrepresented—chief technology officer, vice president of engineering and director of system engineering—are all tech roles, and six of the 10 jobs with the lowest proportions of women are tech jobs.

Venture capital—the toxic sludge that runs through the veins of Silicon Valley Joe—has the same problems. According to a recent analysis from the news site Axios, women make up just 7 percent of decision-makers at venture capital firms. And it’s the same in cybersecurity: a study released last month by the Center for Cyber Safety & Education found that women make up just 11 percent of cybersecurity roles.

Unsurprisingly, many of those big-name, venture-funded companies aren’t doing great. Uber, which finally released its diversity numbers last month, has about 29 percent women workers, but women hold only 15 percent of the tech jobs there. And it isn’t much better at other companies—women make up 30 percent of jobs at Apple, 29 percent at Google and just 25 percent at Microsoft, according to those companies’ 2016 data.

The problems don’t end when the offer letter comes, either. It’s not just about hiring women, or publishing a nice diversity report, or saying We’re Trying. It’s about retaining those women, which means creating a culture where women actually want to work, and where they thrive. And there are countless stories of Silicon Valley failing abysmally at that. Allegations of endemic sexual harassment and general dickishness towards women at Uber made a splash last month—and, in the past, Squarespace, Github, and Tinder, to name a few—but it’s not just them. Elephant in the Valley, a 2015 study of 200 women in tech with at least 10 years’ experience, found that 60 percent of respondents had received unwanted sexual advances, and 60 percent of women who reported harassment were dissatisfied with their company’s response.

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And if you share your concerns, you risk getting shot down. Many men in tech don’t even see the problems. (Rose-colored glasses sure are nice!) If you call out sexism publicly, you risk getting fired or dismissed outright.

Of course, Not All Women feel this way. It’s not like every woman in tech is dodging groping hands on the way to the water cooler in between being turned down for a raise and being asked to order the cake for birthdays. In fact, after the recent Uber sexism allegations surfaced, one female engineer wrote on LinkedIn that Uber wasn’t sexist, but instead had a pro-“hustling” culture of “type-A” individuals.

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But the numbers confirm what most women know to be true—our G-chatted suspicions about male colleagues’ higher pay, our shared eye-rolls during meetings. It’s true in tech, it’s true in most industries, and it blows. It’s so draining, and it often feels impossible to even ask to be paid what you’re worth. But you gotta try.

Splinter politics writer. libby.watson@splinternews.com

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DISCUSSION

While I will not get into the pay gap issues immediately, women are largely not represented in Tech because frankly there just are not that many women in tech. They choose other fields to go into... I can only go from what I saw in my particular college but out of the WHOLE Computer program(CS, IT, IS) we had maybe 10-15 women compared to a couple hundred guys. Males just made up more of the average class, in my particular degree field CS, I knew one female CS major that was two years behind me.

She is an excellent programmer and is making good money... is it exactly what her male counterparts are making, no... some males make more or less. It all depends on what you do and what you CAN do. For instance, if you specialize in only one language of programming say .Net, you will not get paid the same as someone who can program in .Net, Java, C++, Javascript etc.. those skills are valued by tech companies because it means you are flexible... and therefore can be more “billable” to their clients. There is less of a risk of you having “downtime” or being “on the bench” waiting for the right project. They can plug you into any project and start making money by billing you out.

Hell sometimes the “pay gap” is affected by things totally outside of your control. For instance with many consulting firms your pay raise at the end of the year is based on how many billable hours you have had in the year.... if you work on multiple small projects... you will inevitably have downtime between those projects which will effect your billable hours and therefore your compensation at year end. So instead of a 5% cost of living increase, you might get 3.5% or 4%.... you start compounding that number over a few years... it can make a large difference in what you make in your career. Also, firms compensate more based on what you do for them... not only do I put 40 hours a week into a billable project, but I also help with recruiting, or interviewing new employees, or setting up special events. That will also effect your merit increase or yearly bonus.

I do 100% support equal pay for women, if a man and a woman have the same stats, same skills, same everything there is no damn reason why they should not be paid the same. But a lot of these studies don’t take into account all those factors, you really do have to analyze this information on a person by person basis.