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Women in UK tech earn 9% less than male counterparts

Research from recruitment firm Hired found a 9% gender pay gap in tech in the UK, but could not find a reason why this should be the case

Women in the UK technology industry are paid on average 9% less than their male counterparts, according to research.

A study from recruitment firm Hired found that the gap in pay between women and men in UK tech was larger than expected, and the UK’s gender pay gap in tech was wider than in the US, Australia and Canada.

But Hired’s data scientist, Jessica Kirkpatrick, who worked on the research, claimed she could not see a reason for the gap, and admitted surprise at finding the UK’s gap was the widest.

“Unfortunately, the UK does have the largest pay gap, followed closely by the US and Canada,” she said. “That was surprising, especially because the UK has regulation in place that says men and women should be paid equally. I couldn’t find any reason why this would be true in the UK.”

Earnings gap between men and women

Hired carried out its equal pay survey as part of the UK’s Equal Pay Day, which this year fell on 10 November. With UK women in all roles earning on average 13.9% less than their male counterparts, Equal Pay Day marks the point from which they are effectively working for free for the rest of the year.

But in 1970, the UK introduced the Equal Pay Act to prevent firms from paying women less than men when performing the same job. This problem still exists more than 45 years later.

Women in tech roles earn the equivalent of approximately £5,000 less than men in the industry per year, and the gap is worse in more technical roles.

Women in software engineering are paid 9% less than men in the same role, while women in tech sales are paid 5% less than their male counterparts.

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“Even when comparing people who are doing the same types of jobs, we’re still seeing a gap. Software engineering has a higher percentage of men than sales on our platform, and we found roles that were more male dominated had a larger wage gap,” said Kirkpatrick.

“There might be more unconscious bias within types of teams or roles where you have stereotypes about who should do a job or what a software engineer looks like,” she added.

These differences start at entry level and continue throughout careers, with entry-level men in software engineering earning 7% more than their female counterparts, 10% more after two to six years of experience, and 31% more after six or more years of experience.

Size of business determines size of salary gap

The pay gap between men and women varies between organisations, and Hired’s research found that, in the UK, the gap is bigger in medium-sized organisations than in smaller or larger firms.

Kirkpatrick claimed this may be because larger firms are monitored and will have regulations and initiatives in place to prevent pay gaps, while startups do not have the hierarchical structure that could lead to large inequalities between teams and individuals.

“In the middle, you’re not large enough to have as much oversight, but not small enough to have transparency,” she said.

In the US, larger companies have larger pay gaps.

In the tech industry, many claim women are more suited to a startup environment, due to flexibility and female personality traits that allow them to thrive in smaller, more innovative businesses.

Putting a value on skills and experience

Imposter syndrome, the term used to describe accomplished individuals who are unable to accept their own abilities, is a common occurrence for women in the IT industry.

Hired’s research found that women with less than six years of experience will ask for roughly the same salary as their male counterparts, whereas women with more than six years of experience in a role will request 18% less than a male with the same experience.

To address these issues, Hired’s chief marketplace officer, Juney Ham, said its platform allocates mentors to users to help them realise their skills and sets salary expectations based on the asking price for someone with their skills in the industry.

Employers can also search for candidates on Hired’s platform without viewing the name or photo of a candidate, making it easier for firms to find potential hires without unconscious bias playing a role in the decision making.

“Unconscious bias is a really important thing to grasp, and hiding candidate photos and names really helps move that process along,” said Ham. “A number of our employers love that feature, and talk about it as part of why our platform is so valuable for them.”

To prevent further salary gaps in the future, Ham suggested implementing best practice whereby salaries are decided using a data-led approach, with transparent salary allocation and advancement across companies so all employees are aware of the salary structure.

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