• By: Allen Brown

The Gender Gap in IT Salaries: Challenges, Progress, and Solutions

The tech industry is one of the most progressive, influencing virtually every element of how we live and work. And yet for an industry that is a leader in terms of creativity and progression, when it comes to gender equality, the tech industry is positively draconian. 

The gender gap in IT salaries is an issue that demands attention, analysis, and most importantly sustained intervention. Despite remarkable advancements in technology and the ongoing fight for gender equality in various spheres of society, women in IT are still encountering unequal pay and a tougher path to seniority, stalling their progress in this dynamic and promising field. 

The challenges

According to a range of sources including the IT Salary Guide on Motion Recruitment tech opportunities are continuing to grow, with the need for data specialists exceeding skilled professionals to fulfil open positions. Despite this growing need, the data on salaries in tech is clear: nearly 80% of large organizations admit to the presence of a gender pay gap in technology, with women’s salaries sitting at about 82% if those of their male counterparts. 

The impact of hybrid working on women

One unexpected challenge to gender pay equality is the rise of the hybrid working model. Remote and hybrid work arrangements undeniably come with their advantages as well as some negative points which can impact employees regardless of gender. However, the impact on women in the tech industry seems to be more pronounced. To put it simply, working from home holds greater appeal for women. According to Forbes, 19% of women express a firm preference for remote work and never returning to the traditional office, while this figure stands at 7% for men. While women may be benefiting somewhat more from remote work, there’s a trade-off involved. An increasing number of women opting for remote work means that they miss out on opportunities to assert their physical presence – a crucial aspect for showcasing their substantial capabilities within the office. These missed opportunities include the countless micro-interactions that play a pivotal role in establishing trust and respect in the workplace.

What’s more, women value the opportunity to work flexibly so highly that they are willing to take reduced pay in favor of flexible work patterns; another blow to the quest for equal pay. 

The lack of relatable mentors and the scourge of imposter syndrome

Most senior personnel will have had a mentor or role model at some point in their career; many will still have someone that they use to bounce ideas or discuss challenges with. If asked to name a famous man in tech, most of us could probably name at least half a dozen without thinking about it. Yet, according to one PwC survey, 78% of tech students were unable to name a famous woman in tech. The problem is systemic; the same study found that only 16% of female STEM students had had a tech career suggested to them compared to 33% of males. And, most damningly, only 5% if leadership roles in tech are held by women. 

If there are no women to mentor and inspire talented young females in the tech industry, it is unsurprising that there is either a lack of aspiration from females, or a lack of belief in their ability to reach levels of seniority, regardless of their commitment or ability to do the job. Enter the professional woman’s worst enemy: imposter syndrome. According to one study by KPMG, 75% of female executives experience imposter syndrome at some stage, despite their career success and qualifications. This is exacerbated by the gender pay gap, which sees women being undervalued, and this lack of value means that women are more reluctant to demand what they are worth; and so the cycle continues. 

Progress in gender pay inequities

According to recent research, the gender pay gap in America has stabilized over the past two decades. There have been some marginal improvements in the landscape for younger women but for older women, many of whom will traditionally have left work for a period of time to have children and who often take primary caring responsibilities for their families, the gap widens again in later life. According to the study, women who were 25-34 in 2010 were creeping closer to their male counterparts, earning around 92% of the male’s salary on average. However, by the time they reached age 37-46 in 2022, these women had dropped to 84% of the male equivalents’ salaries.  

How do we fix the gender pay gap?

Set ambitious targets

When it comes to striving for equality, half measures are no good. You need to shoot for the stars in the hope that you will reach the moon. Don’t accept the industry “norms” of 24% senior women in tech, or 82% wages for women compared to men. Strive for a 50:50 gender split and aim for complete equality in salaries. For organizations that say they can’t afford to pay their females more the answer is simple: you can’t afford not to. 

Deploy anonymous recruitment and salary reviews

One way to level the playing field during the recruitment process is to deploy anonymous recruiting from the outset to avoid unconscious bias. Removing names and references to gender will help recruiters to shortlist based on skills alone, and will help pay review boards to see no further than the employee’s achievements and skills. If you add full pay transparency to the mix and there will be nowhere for inequitable employers to hide. Although these measures can be uncomfortable to begin with, they tend to produce a level of trust and a commitment to change that may not be achievable without a little bit of pain.

Invest in tomorrow’s leaders, today

The gender gap can’t be fixed overnight. Something that took centuries to create, and which has seen little change in the last quarter of a century, can not be fixed with an ED&I policy and a commitment to anonymous recruitment. At the same time as alleviating today’s issues, organizations need to invest in preventing the same thing from happening further down the line, but strategically and determinedly building a pipeline of young tech professionals from all walks of life. From women in tech mentoring programs to female tech scholarships, organizations need to invest in new female talent in order to address the historic imbalances and promote equality in the future. 

The changes won’t happen overnight but by acknowledging the problem and creating ambitious targets to address them as well as strategies to achieve those targets, it is possible that in the next quarter of a century we will see the closure of the gender gap.