Closing the Pay Gap for Women in Technology Requires Transparency

Among technologists who identify as women, dissatisfaction over current compensation is rampant, according to Dice’s new Equality in Tech Report. In addition, women in tech believe they’re underpaid relative to men with the same occupation and skill level. What can technologists (and companies) do to effectively tackle these issues? 

Meghan Stiling, CDO at Nerdery, feels that technologists must engage in continued discussion over these issues. In addition, there must be a balance of transparency within leadership teams and across departments when it comes to compensation. 

“We’ve reached re-elevation—it’s being talked about and the conversation is becoming more open, but there is a ways to go before active parity,” she said. “IT came from a very centralized populous, and as we build differentiation of experience, having that realization is an important step.” 

An important component in her career has been building a personal, curated network of colleagues who can share information, boost confidence and act as a pillar of support. “Leaning on your network to gain that confidence is critically important when you’re starting out,” she said. “That circle of support comes back around and can help shine a mirror on what’s going on.” 

It’s important for women in tech to not just consider base salary, but also look at compensation and benefits as a whole, she added: “This includes things like taking time off for maternity leave—or in my situation, I take responsibility for care in the family. Be it a close relative or sibling, that does seem to fall disproportionally on women. How does the company’s plan for that measures up to your expectations?”



Erasing the Gap

Michelle McLean, vice president at Salt Security, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based provider of API security, said acombination of preparation and sharing information will go a long way in erasing the wage gap that persists between women and men in many parts of tech.

“First, when seeking a new job, be prepared for the ‘what are your expectations’ conversation,” she said. “Know what you need and what you’re worth—look at online salary guides, talk to colleagues at similar stage and size companies, and factor in your experience level. I realize the risk of speaking in generalities, but many women I’ve worked with are not comfortable being as demanding as they should be about the salary their experience warrants.”

She noted many women voice concerns over being perceived as “difficult” or “aggressive”—labels that are rarely put on men displaying the same behaviors. “So first off: Be ready,” McLean said. 

Second, when negotiating a salary boost to go with an increase in responsibilities, make sure you’ve done your research and you know the “comps” or comparisons for the new level. “Again, at the risk of painting too broad a brushstroke, I’ve seen women be more likely to see themselves as not quite up to par in meeting the requirements of a given role than men are, and so they won’t push for the compensation for this new level or they’ll agree to defer the increase in salary for a ‘let’s see how it’s working out’ time period,” she said. 

Last but not least, McLean warned against falling victim to “earning your way to the next role” for too long.Taking on extra projects or new tasks in an existing role is a helpful way to gain experience and demonstrate your capabilities. “But I’ve seen women linger in such ‘going the extra mile’ situations longer than men will typically tolerate,” she explained. “So be up front at the start of such an arrangement—spell out the tasks, the experience you hope to gain, and the timeline for reviewing the ‘trial period’ all at the start, so there’s no ambiguity about when you’ll earn that promotion.”

Know the Data

McLean also said it’s important to get comfortable talking about money. Get tips from your male colleagues (inside and beyond your company) on where they stand on salary and bonuses, and be ready to fight for your worth. “Remember the cumulative effect of constantly being paid even a bit until your value,” she said. “It builds over time and you’ve given away far more than just a few thousand dollars.”

Heather Paunet, senior vice president at Untangle, a San Jose, Calif.-based provider of comprehensive network security, said that, for job candidates, research on the salary range for the role should be an automatic part of your application process.

“It’s easy these days to look for salary information on tools such as LinkedIn and Glassdoor,” she said. “Knowing what the general range is for the role, the seniority of the role and the geographical location will help women be prepared and not accept anything less.”

That type of information will be valuable when negotiating; the key is to communicate that you have done your research, you know what the market rate is, and you know what your seniority level is worth. “If you can communicate that before talking numbers, the conversation will likely go in your favor,” Paunet said. “When it does come time to negotiate the salary, it’s good to go in with a range that fits the market, rather than a solid number. That opens the door for negotiation and if they give you an offer at the absolute bottom of your range, it may tell you something about the company.”

For Aistė Araminaitė-Pivorė, head of product at NordLocker, the biggest impact on the salary gap will come once there’s global awareness of the issue, along with social pressure for companies to pay attention to compensation gaps within their organization.

“Tech companies all around the world are short of specialists,” she said. “So, attracting women to the field is crucial for growth. A company that openly declares and cares about equal pay gets a better chance to attract women specialists. Competition between such companies should then do the rest until it becomes the norm.” 

That more women have started picking technology as their profession gives her hope for the future. Nonetheless, companies should remember to consider women candidates when it comes to higher positions. “The more women in the industry, the easier it becomes to raise equality questions, and the higher the chances to be heard,” she said. “We need to do a lot in terms of awareness, and a lot of work needs to be done in each tech company separately to get the issue noticed and to actually start making compensation for the same job equal.”