Women in Tech, Wage Inequality, and the ParityPledge

April 11, 2018

Women in tech are becoming more common every single day, but there is still significant disparity when it comes to what salaries are being offered to women versus men for the same technology jobs. recently released their third annual report, The State of Wage Inequality in the Workplace. is a tech hiring marketplace and interviewed over a thousand employees, along with their marketplace data, for the report. Some might argue that the numbers on wage inequality don’t take into account differing levels of experience, only used data for the same jobs at the same companies to analyze their findings.

The State of Wage Inequality in the Workplace points to continued salary inequity in the tech industry as well as an underlying problem of women in tech not getting a chance to interview for all tech jobs, and when they do, not being offered the same level of salary as men for the same position at the same company.

Findings of Wage Inequality for Women in Tech

  • Men are offered higher salaries than women for the same job at the same company 63% of the time.
  • Women in tech are offered on average 4% less than men for the same role at the same company but some companies offer up to 45% less to women for the same position as they offer male candidates.
  • More than half of women in tech know they’ve been paid less than men in similar roles throughout their careers.
  • San Francisco has the smallest gender wage gap.
  • The education technology industry has the largest gender wage.
  • The gender wage gap grows as tech workers get older.
  • Hispanic and Black women are offered 90 cents for every dollar white men earn.
  • LGBTQ+ women in tech are offered more money than their non-LGBTQ+ counterparts.
  • 66% of the time, women ask for less salary than men do.
  • Internationally, the US is slightly better than many other countries: in Toronto, men are offered higher salaries than women for the same position at the same company 69% of the time, and in London, this happens 65% of the time.
  • One hopeful finding is that the number of jobs that are only offered to men (as compared to offering it to both male and female candidates) dropped from 53% of the time last year to 46% of the time this year.

Personal Experience of Wage Inequality in the Tech Industry

Over the course of my career in the tech industry, I’ve been lucky enough to have some great positions and to earn a good salary. My first job in the Boston area, after I moved here from Paris where I was General Manager at Borland Software for about 20 countries, was with an early stage company developing infrastructure, personalization, and e-commerce capabilities for the internet. When I was hired in 1996, I was 6 months pregnant and one of the oldest people in the room.

I joined as a contractor to build up sales, because I’d built up sales successfully a couple times before but had no idea what it would be like as a parent, so didn’t want to commit right then to full time employment.

A week before I left to have my daughter, the CEO/founder convinced me to sign the employment contract, saying I would get 4 weeks paid + 4 weeks unpaid maternity leave. I agreed and came back to work for the next 6 years, building up the business operations and revenues to take the company public in one of the most financially successful internet IPOs during the boom, managing thru the downturn at the end of 2001 and moved on in 2002 as the company was set up to be acquired by Oracle later.

While a career in the tech industry has been good to me, I know that I’ve been paid less than male counterparts many times in my career. In my first major job in the tech industry, I found out that while I was producing around $80M in sales, my colleague, with a similar revenue responsibility, was being paid about 40% more with better stock options. I confronted my boss, who taught me a hard lesson responding bluntly, “You didn’t ask for more when I hired you and it’s not my job to negotiate for you. I can’t change packages now.” I left the company within the year for a better job, with more responsibility, where I worked my tail off and was successful in building up the business for the new company.

I’ve also experienced the other major aspect of gender inequality sometimes defined as unconscious bias. I’d call it a mistaken focus on appearances versus what it takes to get the job done. Because I am not a white male, hard charging head of Sales or tech CEO I haven’t always been offered the job. That has nothing to do with whether I can do the job and produce results.  

Please note that I'm not saying that every time that I haven't gotten a job it was because I was a woman - far from it.  It has actually happened that I've had someone come back to me later and say I wish I'd hired you because I didn't really understand what it took to manage sales so I hired someone who looked like what I thought a sales manager would look like.  At the same time, there have been positions where I wasn't the best candidate, and the hiring team knew exactly what they needed and they got it.  That's the best outcome for the business.

Funny enough, one of the best descriptions of this problem is from Ben Horowitz in his amazing The Hard Thing about Hard Things. He describes hiring Mark Cranney to run sales at Opsware, a decision most of his board and executive team, including Marc Andreesen, were violently against. No one liked Mark because he didn’t look or act like everyone’s perception of a head of sales. Horowitz even says that part of what people didn’t like is that he looked like “a perfect square.” Horowitz, however, felt, “he has mastered sales to a level that far exceeds anybody that I have ever known,” and hired him at Opsware and brought him on as an operating partner at Andreessen Horowitz (a16z). Horowitz’s description of hiring Cranney is a must read for anyone evaluating sales management.

Josh James, founder and CEO of Domo helped found the ParityPledge, which asks companies to consider at least one woman candidate for every VP and higher position. As James writes, “I notice that when a senior position in my company opens up, I naturally think of the people I know well as candidates. The reality is that most of these people tend to be men because they are the ones I’ve worked closest with in the past. I also tend to socialize with more men outside of work hours, so I get to know them better. The ParityPledge, forces me and others in my organization to consciously grow and diversify our pipeline of qualified candidates.”  James goes on to say that because of Domo's new focus on going outside their network has resulted in reaching out to some candidates and hiring more qualified executives than they might have otherwise.

The world is moving toward being data-driven and more diverse. Diversity challenges our assumptions but will also challenge us to compete at a higher level as the world gets more complex. To stay on top, companies will have to focus on what it takes to get the job done, and not on appearances. To be competitive, companies will have to realize that if they pay less to a woman in tech than they’d pay to a man for the same position, they may lose out to another company that can see beyond gender (or race or whatever). It’s that simple.