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Privacy pro salaries rise throughout pandemic, but at a cost

Data from the IAPP’s latest salary survey reveals some insight into how the pandemic impacted the privacy profession

The mean salary of a privacy professional has increased by approximately $6,000 (£4,260 or €4,950) in the past two years to $140,529 (£99,850 or €116,000), according to the latest data from the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP), demonstrating the critical role privacy expertise has come to play in corporate strategy, but the increased value has come at great cost.

This is according to the IAPP’s latest Privacy professionals salary survey, which found that while the job market for privacy pros has proved relatively Covid-proof with few furloughed or laid-off and the majority of privacy and compliance roles easily performed remotely, like their CISO peers privacy professionals have still been hit hard in terms of overwork, stress and mental health, and where there have been job cuts, as is the case in the wider jobs market they have overwhelmingly affected women.

“Privacy pros, like other workers, have faced difficult choices regarding their careers and families due to the pandemic,” said IAPP senior Westin research fellow Müge Fazlioglu in the introduction to this year’s report.

“Businesses have also needed to grapple with a changed reality. Employee retention, satisfaction and morale have become acute challenges for many employers. Organisations in various industries have used incentives, in addition to base salary, to retain top talent in a year marked by excessive burnout, the blurring – if not evaporation – of the work-life boundary and the dreaded “Zoom fatigue”.

“But despite the upheaval, the job market in the field of privacy has remained strong. Although remote and at home, privacy professionals continue their work, few privacy jobs have been lost and many roles are even better paid today than they were just a year or two ago,” said Fazlioglu.

As of March 2021, the IAPP found that about 90% of privacy pros were either working mostly or entirely from home, and over a third, 36%, of them believed they would continue working in this way after the pandemic is over. A further 50% said they expected some kind of hybrid working environment.

About six in 10 of those who responded to the study said they had received a raise in 2021, 10% fewer than received a raise in 2019 (the 2020 survey was not conducted for obvious reasons), although this said, 75% of them received some form of unspecified additional compensation for their work. About 7% took a pay cut during the course of the pandemic.

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The gender pay gap was no less diminished, with men making an average of 9% more than women globally, 14% in the US – which was also the country which paid privacy pros the most in general.

In terms of the mental impact of the pandemic, privacy professionals were generally affected in the same way as those working in any other sector that was easily able to pivot to remote working in the spring of 2020. Over 60% said their mental health and wellbeing was now a concern – slightly more women than men said this, and 46% cited general health related concerns.

Despite the ease of remote working, a third were still worried about their job security, and a fifth said they had financial concerns. Privacy pros tended to be less worried about access to child care, and again reflecting the wider patriarchal nature of society, more women than men said this was a concern.

Despite their worries, privacy professionals seemed generally happy with their roles though – 45% said they were now considered their organisation’s “privacy leader” bearing ultimate responsibility for the operation and success of privacy programmes, and this was a 2% rise on 2019, perhaps reflecting the increased regulatory focus on privacy.

Respondents said the biggest factor influencing their job satisfaction was how interesting their work was (50%), followed by work-life balance (41%) and salary and benefits (38%). Others said they got satisfaction from the positive impact their work can have on people.

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