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Bridging the gender pay gap in the technology industry

Publication of gender pay gap figures for large organisations shows the tech sector has a long way to go to back up its rhetoric about equal opportunities

Even though the technology industry is a trailblazing and progressive sector, its gender pay gap results show that it is dawdling behind.

In April this year, thousands of employers in the UK were required to publish their gender pay gap figures for the time. In the technology sector especially, the reports make for interesting reading, with pay disparity for both hourly rates and bonuses and a clear lack of women in high-level roles.

Gender pay reporting rules require employers with 250 or more employees to publish statutory calculations every year, showing how large the pay gap is between their male and female employees.

Striving for transparency, the rules oblige employers to publish the full pay report on their website every year, as well as the government’s own public database, which acts as an open “naming and shaming” of those employers who do not comply or who have the largest pay gaps.

While companies are free to add additional information and narrative around their figures, the reports must include the difference in the mean and median hourly rates between men and women, the difference in mean and median bonuses between men and women, and the proportion of men and women who receive a bonus. Perhaps most interestingly for the technology sector, the reports must also include the number of men and women in each pay quartile.

Gender pay gaps in the technology sector

What do the reports show and how do some of the big players fare?

The report that caused the biggest waves across the industry was from Grand Theft Auto games developer Rockstar North, which revealed an average hourly pay rate that is 64% lower for women. This means women earn just 36p for every £1 men earn at Rockstar. Even more staggeringly, women’s average bonus pay was 84% lower than men’s and, perhaps by way of explanation, the report revealed that just 8% of those in the upper pay quartile were women.

LinkedIn’s report revealed that, while it has a balanced workforce, the average hourly rate for women is over 27% lower than men, with a median bonus pay gap of over 60%. LinkedIn states this is a direct result of a lack of women in senior roles, with nearly 70% of the lower pay quartile being women – conversely, the upper pay quartile is made up of 70% men.

The figures from the UK arm of Samsung Electronics were slightly better, with an average hourly pay gap of 26.1% and data showing that women receive bonuses which are 43.75% lower than men.

However, some industry giants would have us believe it is not all doom and gloom. The gender pay gap report from Amazon UK Services indicates that women’s median hourly rate is in fact 0.1% higher than men’s, with women’s bonuses also coming up higher. Nevertheless, these statistics should be taken with a pinch of salt – in every other division of Amazon, such as Amazon Online UK, the figures show men are paid more across the board.

For Apple UK, the median hourly pay gap is also in women’s favour by 2%, but average pay is 5% lower for women with an average bonus gap of 22%. Like many others, Apple blames these figures on the fact there are more men in leadership positions, which pay more and attract higher bonuses. Despite this, Apple states that 36% of their employees last year were women and 40% of their leadership under the age of 30 are women, reflecting the fact that “future generations will be more diverse”.

Analysing the gender pay gap

The overwhelming theme emerging from the technology industry’s gender pay gap reports is that the gap typically stems from how often women are outnumbered by men at the top. What the industry is in fact facing is a “roles gap”, with women not entering the technology market nor obtaining the top roles.

Even before the gender pay gap reporting deadline, the sector came under repeated fire for not attracting female employees, together with difficulties in retaining and promoting them to high-level positions. Surveys show that men gravitate towards the more technical roles, such as software engineering and development, while women edge towards project management, marketing and administration.

It may be that these less technical roles afford greater flexibility, albeit at lower pay, but ultimately questions need to be asked about what is preventing women from entering and staying in the technical market.

Read more on women in technology

Is there genuinely a lack of inclusivity towards women? Are the working pressures of the sector restrictive for working mothers? Is the problem at a grassroots level, stemming from a lack of women on technology degrees and courses?

While the government is introducing initiatives to tackle the latter question, the industry should take an internal look at itself to consider how it can challenge these questions and produce more positive gender pay gap reports in the future.

For tech entrepreneurs entering the market, it is surely time to stand out from the crowd and pave the way for a diverse and inclusive sector. It will also be interesting to see from next year’s reports whether this year’s public results have been the diversity wake-up call that the industry needed.

Read more on Diversity in IT

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