Despite recent pushes for compensation equality, a gender pay gap persists in the tech industry even when other factors, including experience, roles, education and location, are controlled for. Despite the past and continuing contributions that women make in technology, the tech industry isn’t leading in this particular arena. In short, there is much work to be done.

To help raise awareness about the gender pay gap and drive the discussion about salary equality, Dice analyzed three years’ worth of salary data (along with supplemental panel and market data) to discover the pay differences between men and women in technology. And in addition to the report, Dice is speaking to women involved in the tech industry to get their perspective on the data and add their story. 

Sabrina is the founder of Acacia HR Solutions, a human resources consulting firm headquartered in Los Angeles. Through the firm, Sabrina helps startups and small businesses create, build and grow HR infrastructure. Sabrina is certified in the Myers Briggs Type Indicator and is fascinated with how personality type plays into our interactions in the workplace. Sabrina is also the co-founder of DISRUPTHR Los Angeles, an information exchange designed to energize, inform and empower people in the HR field. Most recently, Sabrina helped organize the first HR Hackathon Los Angeles, an event that uses design thinking to solve talent management issues.

Dice: Do you think there is a gender pay disparity in tech?

Yes, even without the data. My business is primarily startups and small businesses. And within that, there are many, many tech companies. I’m based in California, so we have pay disparity laws, and that has spurred a ton of our clients to review their compensation, and there is a gap – I absolutely think it exists in all industries, but tech is certainly where it seems to be very prevalent.

Dice: Why do you think it’s so present in the tech industry?

Historically, it was a very male-driven industry, so you had more men, especially in leadership positions. And then it started to shift where women were looking at these more technical roles, but they were behind at this point. And so that created the gender pay gap. And then from another perspective, women tend to ask for less, they tend to negotiate less. There are tons of studies on a job descriptions; if men have half the qualifications they’ll apply, but if women don’t have all of them they won’t apply. So, I think as women, we tend to discredit our worth a little bit. Therefore, we ask for less salary and we certainly negotiate less. If we’re not given what we’re worth, we don’t really fight for it.

Dice: Do you think these laws in your state are helping?

The laws [in California] are absolutely helping. Look at the data. You can see that in states like California, where we have these laws, the gap is lower. It’s still higher than anyone would want it to be, but it is narrowing. What the law causes companies to do, is really look at [their compensation]. When it comes to gender pay disparity, nobody is setting out to do it. It’s not an intention in [the hirer’s] brain. It’s something that happens through the hiring process and how their structure is set up. So, they think they don’t have an issue with it. But then, when they look at the data, they realize that they actually do have an issue. I think the law really causes companies to look at their data and realize they do have an issue. And that’s something that I would like to see in the next few years across the country and globally. To really look at the data and say: we in line or that we do have a pay gap, and if we do let’s take some serious action.

Dice: What do you think employees can do?

I think employees have to understand their worth. They need to learn how to do market research on the role that they’re in, the industry that they’re in, and understand what their worth truly is. And then they need to learn to ask for (and demand) that and speak up when there is a gender pay gap. We need to make sure that there is one united voice that says here’s what we’re worth, and if we are in a job where we do the same work and we have the same qualifications and levels of experience, we need to be paid the same. It comes down to paying for the job rather than paying what the person was making before.

Dice: What’s your experience been like with gender pay disparity as an HR consultant?

As we come to new clients, even if our reason to be there doesn’t involve compensation, somebody brings it up with us. They’re doing that, hoping that we’ll uncover what they already know.

From an employer standpoint, we will often get asked questions around salary. They’ll ask about best practices or paying for a role or how to structure compensation and bonuses. I think it’s top of mind for employees and employers, knowing what to do about or knowing how to fix it when there is a problem.

Dice: Why are some employers reluctant to look into their data?

It’s expensive. It really shakes up everything that they’ve been doing. If there’s a huge gender pay gap, it involves fixing it for current employees, but then also it shakes up the way that they hire, and what they’re going to offer incoming employees will be considerably higher. It’s a vulnerable thing for leaders to admit they’ve been wrong.

Dice: What would it look like for a company to change how they hire?

The first thing is paying for the job. Let’s say you have a DevOps opening and you know what a junior level pays, no matter if they’re male or female. We’ve had a habit for decades of saying, “tell me your salary history,” and that got banned in many places. Then it switched to “what are your salary expectations?” Well, historically, women’s expectations are lower. So, when you’re asking what your expectations are, you’re almost creating this pay gap. I would look to take that salary discussion off the table in the hiring process. Instead, they should say: “this is the role, this is what we pay the role based on your experience and qualifications – do you accept or not?” Doing that not only solves the pay gap, but it also solves diversity issues when you have minorities that are making less as well.