Why is it so hard for tech firms to just pay women the same as men?

Comparably is helping to tackle this issue by informing firms if they are underpaying staff

Am I missing something here? Achieving income equality for men and women in the workplace may be hampered by some patriarchal hangovers and, perhaps even some logistical bureaucracy slowing down the process.

But the disparity between the sickly sweet “equality for all through tech” rhetoric so many chief executives let flow like Fiji Water out of their hypocritical mouths and the reality on the ground is no longer tolerable.

Equal pay across all industries is the ultimate goal but tech of all sectors should have eradicated this archaic, unethical and downright embarrassing norm we have all come to take for granted a long time ago.

Comparably, a platform which collects data on compensation for workers in public and private companies recently published a new list highlighting what employees in the tech industry are making based on gender and race.

Salary records

Analysing the salary records of 30,000 workers who volunteered their info between March 2016 and August 2017, it concluded women earn about 80 cents for every one dollar earned by a man across all industries. Black women earn even less, at 67 cents per dollar while Hispanic women earn about 60 cents.

In the tech industry, Comparably found the gender wage gap to be even worse for young women, despite earning more money overall than women in other sectors.

In various sectors, women always fell short of their male counterparts. Here’s just a couple of examples:

Average salaries by gender

– DevOps women: $107,663, men: $115,923

– IT manager women: $113,029, men: $110,813

– Lead engineer women: $124,540, men: $134,292

– Product manager women: $109,133, men: $116,935

– Project manager women: $101,937, men: $106,046

– Sales engineer women: $124,898, men: $144,116

– Sales manager women: $92,422, men: $122,186

– Sales rep women: $93,000, men: $114,616

In a similar new study, Comparably found the pay gap is largest for women early in their careers, “with women under 25 earning on average 29 per cent less than men their age, while the gap drops to only 5 per cent for workers over 50”.

This supports an earlier study by Glassdoor this month that found the average female programmer made nearly 30 per cent less than her male counterpart.

Okay great, so we know life ain’t fair. Highlighting pay inequality does little except generate a few days of debate – if even – before everything goes back to the way things always were. So how do we change it? Not by waiting for those on top to develop a conscience.

Comparably are doing much more than simply highlighting inequality. They’re empowering the underpaid. And getting paid for it in the process. The company is selling its data to companies to tangibly demonstrate how their employee base “relates to the overall market and where they have discrepancies”. Companies sign up in order to try and stay competitive.

"We'll show companies their breakdown of gender versus the market – what are you paying male and female candidates versus the market, and how are your top 20 most valuable employees paid relative to the market," says Jason Nazar, co-founder of Comparably. "If they're underpaid and at the risk of getting poached, we'll notify you to make sure that's something you might want to address."

Salesforce are one of the few major tech companies which has addressed the gender pay gap and, while it requires constant surveillance to ensure pay rises are spread evenly across male and female staff, it's working.

And guess what, Salesforce is one of the most highly valued cloud computing companies on the stock market. In other words, doing the right thing hasn’t hurt their bottom line.

Gender inequality

Now why can't the same be said for other tech industry leaders? Founded in 1977, computer tech veterans Oracle would in tech terms be considered senior citizens when compared with the competition. Founded as it was in different times where one must only assume misogyny and gender inequality were as commonplace as smoking in the office and being sent home by HR for wearing bell-bottoms to work.

So should we be any less surprised that three female ex-Oracle engineers are suing for gender discrimination? Perhaps. But then an almost identical lawsuit is being taken against Google, a company which has no excuse not to be leading the way in terms of progressive workplace culture.

Salesforce are doing something right. They are consistently voted one of the top companies to work for by staff.

And while no company deserves a pat on the back simply for doing the right thing, sadly we must celebrate any corporate entity that chooses not to be shitty. The silent acceptance that women continue to be paid less than their male peers, regardless of effort, performance or merit, is humiliating.

It’s something everyone in society should feel embarrassed by, the same way we do about historical failures like slavery, capital punishment or anti-semitism.