Business Tech

Equal Pay: Three Things That Tech Execs Don’t Get


Today is the 20th anniversary of the first Equal Pay Day, when businesses across America deplore the male/female wage gap and other benchmarks with varying degrees of sincerity.

Take the tech industry, the Rodney Dangerfield of gender diversity.

It gets no respect.

In a survey of company-compiled diversity reports, The Wall Street Journal found that the firm with the best record of employing women in tech jobs was eBay. How good was it? Just 24 percent of the jobs were held by women. The number happened to match the U.S. Commerce Department estimate of the percentage of all STEM jobs in the nation that were held by women in 2009, six years earlier.

Why has women’s advancement in the tech sector been such a crawl?

Why has women’s advancement in the tech sector been such a crawl? A common explanation is the male-dominated culture of the industry, where men account for a lopsided number of engineers. Engineers are the ones who get promoted to leading management positions, perpetuating the male culture and its biases.

Reformers say that one solution for drawing more women to the field is better compensation. Last year, the cloud-based software firm Salesforce reportedly spent $3 million to accommodate adjustments to women employees’ salaries.

But the focus on pay as a remedy to gender unbalance can overlook deeper problems of management structure and attitudes. As top managers ponder better — and long-overdue — compensation strategies, there are three issues they also need to keep in mind:

  • Practices matter. A recent global survey by Mercer on women in the workplace, “When Women Thrive,” found an uncomfortable distinction drawn by employees at information and tech companies. More than half — 56 percent — agreed that their organizations believe there is a clear business case for improving gender diversity. Yet only 36 percent said that their employers had remediation programs in place to address pay-equity risks. The best mission statements in the world won’t change a thing without practical efforts spelled out in writing; the absence of real programs only engenders cynicism.

    Some of the most forward-thinking companies — including some in Silicon Valley — are bringing a gender lens to areas like compensation across the board, from base to bonus and commissions. Without that, women can be held back from opportunities to move up.

  • It’s about more than pay. It’s not enough to draw women into the tech sector with competitive salaries; the tech industry needs to develop the talent it already has. This isn’t happening; at least half of the women are leaving the sector at the height of their careers, more than double the rate of men.

    Managers need to think creatively about meeting the work/life needs of employees, including maternity leave. Although women are actually promoted at a higher rate from senior managers into executives, it’s at the lower, professional levels where we see the real roadblock: Women hired and promoted at lower rates make up only one-third of professionals in the tech industry. While we see many leaders putting programs into place focusing on the top, the real need is to nurture and develop all career levels, starting at the bottom.

    Of critical importance, we’ve found, is the need for managers to understand the true value of women in the workplace and actually look at the hard data to base action on what is actually helping or hurting their progress. Also, merely having programs available to staff, while supervisors remain disengaged, is no longer enough.

  • Women are strategically crucial. You may ask, What difference does it make whether women or men write the code, as long as the code gets written? Why does equal pay matter? Indeed, 25 percent of info/tech employees told Mercer they felt there was no clear business case to be made for improving gender diversity. The view is unfortunate, but also very shortsighted.

    The tech industry will have about four million vacancies this year. Some segments of the market will have to scramble to fill their openings; just 40,000 young people will graduate with bachelor’s degrees in computer science, for example. With only 18 percent of computer science majors female, there is tremendous room for improvement here. Do the math.

The best mission statements in the world won’t change a thing without practical efforts spelled out in writing; the absence of real programs only engenders cynicism.

The tech industry isn’t alone as it comes to terms with these issues. Across all business sectors, companies are struggling to improve inclusion. In North America, women hold 39 percent of professional and more-senior roles, a number that Mercer estimates will increase by just a single percentage point by 2025.

Equal pay is just one starting point for what is shaping up to be a long road ahead for full gender equality in the workplace.


Jennifer Openshaw is a partner with Mercer’s When Women Thrive initiative. A nationally known author and speaker, she founded and was CEO of Women’s Financial Network in Silicon Valley, later sold to Wall Street legend Muriel Siebert. Reach her @jopenshaw and @WhenWomenThrive.



Source Article from http://recode.net/2016/04/12/equal-pay-three-things-that-tech-execs-dont-get/


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