Although wage discrimination is illegal, recent statistics suggest that the pay gap in tech is real. According to data gathered by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, men in software development, applications and systems software occupations earn $1,736 per week on average, compared to just $1,457 for women.
Tech pros who suspect that they are paid less than their male peers can’t rely on passive social pressure to enact change; they need to challenge the status quo. But how can you get the pay you deserve without alienating your boss or putting your job in jeopardy? Here are some potentially effective ways to tackle pay-inequality issues.
Gather data related to the compensation others in your company receive for similar work. Granted, you can’t come out and ask your co-workers what they’re making, but many in tech share their salaries on Twitter (using the hashtag #talkpay). You can also look to Glassdoor and other sites on the Web to find the information you need before broaching the subject.
Remember that job content, and not job titles, determines whether jobs are roughly equal from a pay perspective. Although quoting market-based salary data may help your cause, companies have the right to set their own compensation levels or pay more to top performers, advised Deborah Ashton, president of consulting firm Planet Perspective.
“Have more than one data point going into the discussion,” Ashton said. “Otherwise, it may be easy for your boss to say that someone else is making more money because he’s a hot shot.”
Approaching the Discussion
As with any salary discussion, you want to focus on your contributions and value and have a number in mind. But since you’re also seeking equality, mention your desire for fairness and equal pay. Shaping the issues, or “framing,” is a technique used by expert negotiators that can help to influence your boss’s attitude.
“Don’t be adversarial,” Ashton said. “Approach the discussion from the perspective that you want to maximize your full potential and receive equitable treatment.”
You don’t want your boss to get his or her back up, added Ariane Hegewisch, a study director at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in Washington, D.C.: “You don’t have to spell it out. Just raising the topic should be enough to put him or her on edge.”
Research shows that women worry that pushing for more money will damage their image and reputation. But negotiating for the benefit of your family or others can give you the motivation and nerve to demand a higher salary. However, if you’re nervous about it, you might consider planning an exit route just in case.
Ask your boss about the median salary for employees in your role. If you’re meeting expectations and delivering the same results as your male peers, your boss may have a hard time justifying a less-than-average salary.
If you make a solid case, your boss should grant your request or volunteer to take it up the ladder. At the very least, you should walk away from your meeting with a better understanding of why you’re paid less than your co-workers and the steps you need to take to earn a raise.
“Having another job lined up is ideal,” Hegewisch said. “But since you’ll probably have to work there tomorrow, you may want to talk to the HR manager or even consult a lawyer if your discussion with your boss goes poorly.”