Is there a gender pay gap?


I’ve seen a couple of articles recently arguing that there is no gender pay gap. The first was based on “research” from a right-wing think tank, which immediately undermines its credibility. This second piece is from a company called Dice, and argues that the pay gap can be entirely explained by women not being in more senior roles.

Is there a gender pay gap in tech? This is a question that has long been debated in tech circles. Taking tech salary data at face value, it would appear as though the answer is a clear-cut ‘yes’. For instance, Dice’s latest Salary Survey shows that on average, men earned $91,362 in 2014, nearly $10,000 more than the $81,651 women made on average during the same time period. If you look more closely, however, it becomes clear that these numbers do not paint an entirely accurate picture, as they fail to consider two key variables that factor into earned salaries: years of experience and level of education. Once controlling for these variables, average salaries for male and female tech professionals with parallel job titles are relatively equal, with companies placing more heavily weighted significance on the number of years a professional has in the industry.

salaries2015 (2)

While the data indicates a lack of a gender pay gap in tech once experience and education are taken into account, it does unearth a position gap, which appears to more accurately explain the earnings differential between men and women in tech. According to the most recent Dice Salary Survey, the two groups tend to hold different positions.  In fact, with the exception of Project Manager and Applications Developer, there are no other positions that overlap in the Top Ten Occupations Lists for men and women. There is, however, a significant salary differential between the two lists.

I can’t help feel a little suspicious about these results, given the use of creative statistics to twist the truth that right-wing think tanks have used in, I suspect, an effort to justify ignoring equality issues. Ken, would love your view on this!! 


Controlling for ‘years in industry’ systemises a bias against any groups who are not part of industry norms. if it’s harder for women to enter the industry in the first place, they’ll have fewer average years. There are other key variables you also need to take into account, which will depend on context - industrial sector, ethnicity (alas) and the way the companies break down in gender. In the UK, you need to control for social class as this is important.

There’s a pay gap. What bears watching, though, is what happens in the UK as economic recovery pushes some tech roles into shortage. As demand growns for particular groups, their bargaining power increases. In some areas of engineering, for example, which are simultaneously experiencing skills shortage and are actively trying to adopt a more representative gender balance, there’s (some) evidence from graduate starting salaries that there might temporarily be a flattening - and even a reversal - of the gender pay gap. I doubt it will last, but it’s interesting.

FWIW, I think things are flattening out, but if you get a salary breakdown and a list of associated variables, you can regress it as you see fit and get the answer you want. A regression that controls for just two factors isn’t sensitive enough here IMHO.



Thanks Ken! I had a feeling that there was a bit of finagling going on by them to get the answer they wanted. 

What’s also interesting - to me, anyway - is that I found it hard to believe that their study was representing reality, rather than thinking “Oh, great, the pay gap’s gone away”. I hope that at some point we will see pay gaps disappearing, but it feels a bit premature to be saying we’ve reached that point yet! 


Arguably unfair, but I think any piece of work that pronounces the gender pay gap to be non-existent needs to be extremely closely scrutinised. Too many vested interests have produced too much distortion for any such claims to be passed uncritically.



Here’s another commentary on the pay gap, and again, the majority of commenters BtL are saying, not even where’s the data, but “there is none”
grauniad linky

Now I have seen some data on this, but it’s confidential and can’t discuss it. Perhaps a useful resource would be links to data and resources on this so that our readers can link bomb threads where people just flat out deny its existence, or say “it’s all about teh babies”

Must. Not. Go. BtL



David Cameron recently announced that he was going to make companies (well, those with more than 250 employees) disclose whether they pay men more than women. While this is a good idea the cynic in me says it’s not going to do that much as they’ll be able to come up with some excuse why they’re doing it. After all, we’ve had decades of knowing that women are systematically paid less than men yet there’s always excuses for why it’s ok, or why it’s not really the case, and so on.

There’s a letter in the Guardian that I thought was a brilliant summary of the problem. It’s by Margaret Prosser, Labour Peer, who writes,

While I welcome the government’s proposals for gender pay reporting and greater transparency of earnings within companies/organisations, this measure alone will do nothing to address the social issues that lie behind women’s lower pay (Analysis, 15 July). Your piece highlighted the fact that fewer than half of female qualified architects become shareholder-directors or equity partners. Do these firms feel satisfied that they lose so much trained talent? Does it not occur to them that this is a waste of the money they have spent over the years recruiting and upskilling staff. Or are they so wrapped up in their boysy internal politics they don’t care or notice? If the government really wants to make a difference to the continuing unfair treatment of women and the ever-growing loss to the economy brought about by the waste of talented women’s contribution to the market, then they need to get a grip. Better-quality part-time jobs, cheaper childcare, retraining programmes for women who’ve lost their skills through maternity breaks. All this would be a start.

There’s more to the letter but I loved this part. Especially the ‘boysy internal politics’ line. As she says, it’s not just the women who lose out but the companies as well. All that talent being lost, such a stupid and unnecessary waste.


Do women have the advantage in academia?

Quite! Equality isn’t just good for women, it’s good for everyone. Of course, a lot of men just see it as a threat, and can’t get past that to see what a benefit it would be.



This is a good article on ‘[the motherhood trap][1]’.

The “motherhood trap” exposes one of capitalism’s most uncomfortable secrets – the way it relies on so much unpaid labour, often from women, to sustain itself. This labour comes at the expense of career opportunities. . .

The article is about women in politics and explains how, while there’s more women in high-level politics than ever before, they have done so to the detriment of their personal lives.

. . . while the 14 men in the shadow cabinet have 31 children between them, the 13 women have only 16. Seven of the women are childless, against three of the men. . . There was universal agreement across the ideological spectrum that it is difficult to balance caring responsibilities with a political career. At the same time, selectors, voters and the media often expect a politician to have a family as a way of signalling that they are “normal”. So women face an impossible situation. If they have children, people disparage them as not dedicated enough to the job. If they don’t, people disparage them for having nothing else in their lives but the job.

The whole article is quotable and really worth a read.

I particularly liked this bit,

“Because of maternity leave, and the cultural expectation that it’s mums that take the lion’s share of that time,” she said, “it ends up being the women who are taking more of the responsibility once they return to work.” Why is that? “Because they’ve developed the expertise. Parenting is about practice – you don’t innately know how to calm a crying baby.”

It reminds me of my friend who’s got a two year-old. I visited her recently and was impressed with how easily she was comforted by my friend’s partner. The reason is that they’ve shared parenting responsibility right from the start. The result is that their child just wants a parent, rather than ‘mummy’ and they’re both equally capable of looking after her. It was really nice to see and perfectly exemplified that “parenting is about practice”.

As often seems to be the case, it was implied that given Gillard’s [ex-PM of Australia] childlessness, she could not have an opinion on family policy – as if defence ministers always have a military background, or all agriculture ministers can reliably tell one end of a haddock from the other before taking on the brief.

I also love this bit. It’s one of the things that really annoys me, that unless you have direct experience of something you can’t have have an informed opinion on it. As the quote says, we don’t expect that of other jobs so why expect it for women and families. As if because we don’t have children we can’t imagine, for example, what it would be like to lose them. Maybe not completely, but given that everyone deals with grief differently even if you do have kids doesn’t mean you’ll feel the same way as someone else. It’s one of the big reasons why people end up splitting when they lose a child - the different ways of reacting and coping with the death. People can empathise. Loving people is not an emotion reserved for parents alone and it really makes me annoyed that I’m somehow lesser because, not only do I not have kids, but I don’t want them.

Ben Bradshaw said that he’d never been picked on for his childlessness, and pointed out,

“We all have families even if we don’t have children. Me and the man I’ve been with for 20 years have an extended family. We have scores of nephews and nieces.”

I really recommend reading the whole thing.



Aye, there is much in there that I recognise. In my dept, no female academic that I can think of, has 3 or more children. In the offices around me there are 9 male academics who have 25 children between them (and one on the way). Of the 6 women, we have 5 and one on the way. I know this is replicated across the dept.



This is an interesting follow-up from Helen Lewis (the author of the original piece) in the Guardian. She writes about the backlash to her original article.

The one criticism that is worth confronting head on is the idea that motherhood is purely a personal decision and none of anyone else’s business. That’s true on an individual level; we shouldn’t try to analyse a woman’s personality through her reproductive status. But there are swaths of government policies to support families, including tax credits and parental leave. In the summer budget, George Osborne effectively set a limit on the number of children the government believes that a poor family should have – two – by restricting their benefits. At the same time, we are all relying on today’s youngsters growing up to pay the taxes that will support our retirements. Unless you believe there is no such thing as society, motherhood matters.
. . .
The achievements of individual mothers such as Harriet Harman or Margaret Thatcher cannot disguise the overall picture: juggling children and a job hurts women’s pay for the rest of their lives, and makes it harder to reach the top of a profession. In politics, that matters because our parliament should strive to be representative of the country at large. . . It is very hard to see whether the big childcare reforms of the last few decades would have been accomplished without women in the room when the decisions were made.

I particularly liked this bit,

There are times when taking a universal view is appropriate, but in the last few years we’ve become shy of talking about “women’s issues”, if it turns out that even one single solitary man is also affected. It reminds me of French grammar – you can call a group of women “elles”, but as soon as a single man joins it, you have to talk about “ils”. Men must always be prioritised.

The end is particularly fantastic,

So yes, we do need to talk about motherhood – and fatherhood, too, when it’s appropriate. It will make people uncomfortable and as with all feminist causes, we will be informed of 9,999 things we should be talking about instead (I think it’s still FGM this week). But we need to get away from the dead-end argument that having children is merely a matter of personal choice and we need to ask if it’s really “natural” for society to be structured in a way that disadvantages mothers.



Women can’t even get on the bottom rung in tech:

The report collected data from 30,000 employees at 118 companies across nine industries and found that women hold only 37% of entry-level positions in the tech industry, which is notably lower than the sample’s average of 45%. The problem of under-representation only worsens as the pipeline continues, with women in the tech industry holding only 25% of senior manager positions, and 15% of c-suite roles. It was found that energy, automotive and industrial manufacturing industries have similar numbers.



Not tech-related but still on pay gaps,

Women with vocational qualifications earn 15% less than men

Men aged between 22 and 30 with a vocational qualification above GCSE level earn on average £10 an hour, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) found in an analysis of official figures. Women with the same qualification level earn only £8.50 per hour.



Nope, no gender wage gap in tech, no sirree, absolutely not, no nothing at all… oh, wait:

Not only are women grossly under-represented among developers, but they are grossly under-paid.

Women earned on average $13,000 less than their male counterparts.

Even when you control for location and years of experience, women still get $5,000 less per year than men.

What a shock.

Only issue with some of their other conclusions from this survey though is that correlation is not causation, so they say that working hard results in higher pay, but don’t consider that perhaps people who are paid more feel compelled to stay at work for longer.

And of course, I recommend not reading the comments, because of course they try to argue that women aren’t paid less…



Data from Australia:

A very practical little snapshot of the gender pay gap: Here’s recent ATO income tax data sorted by job…

Nope, still no pay gap, no siree.



A rather polemical article, but backed up with data, arguing that the pay gap is down to sexism,

It’s not “choices,” it’s pure sexism: Women get paid less for one reason — they’re discriminated against

“If men and women were equal in both talent and opportunity, more men would be housewives and we’d have had a female president already. So this theory that we have equal opportunities only works if you assume women are inherently less talented.”

Meanwhile, it seems men get paid more when they have kids,
Working fathers get 21% ‘wage bonus’, TUC study suggests

“It says much about current attitudes that men with children are seen as more committed by employers, while mothers are still often treated as liabilities,” said TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady.



One university seems to agree that there is a paygap and miraculously has decided to do something about it. And rather than create committees and working groups to examine the problem and write reports, they’ve taken a more direct route, by simply increasing the wages of their female staff to put them in line with male staff. It really is that simple.

1 Like


Perfect solution, really.



Another university has realised they have a gender gap and are taking the first steps to correct it.

$2905 raise for women profs at Waterloo

The piece is well worth a read and it’s hard to pull a quote out of context so I won’t. It shows just how easy it is for women to be systematically underpaid, but also how easily that can be identified if someone takes the time to look. Lets hope this leads to more universities, and workplaces looking and implementing pay structures that prevent such a gape to occur in the first place.



How Gender Bias Affects Teachers’ Salaries

Too often, the media and policymakers choose to ignore gender when discussing why teachers aren’t afforded much respect, but this isn’t a small detail in the conversation. It’s a feature. Why else would we denigrate teachers for protesting when they face the possibility of not getting paid over the summer?

Teaching isn’t charity work. It’s a job. But because it is a profession dominated by women, and teaching is often viewed as a caretaking role, we see teachers who stand up for their labor rights as selfish. And we view the profession itself as unworthy of the value and support it’s always deserved.

I love this quote from a teacher who, to stop students from calling her ‘mom’, downplayed her femininity in the classroom by not wearing make-up or dresses,

“I didn’t want to be just another girl, but in the past year, I have begun to think it’s really annoying that I have to lose my femininity to be considered strong. It’s actually a much bigger problem,” Torres says. “It’s not seeing me as a caretaker and therefore weak. It’s that ‘caretaker’ and ‘weak’ is the connection to begin with, as if my feelings make me weak, as if my ability to empathize makes me weak.” [my bold]

It’s a long but very worthwhile read that covers the impact of sex, race and class on teaching in the US.



Hollywood’s financial glass ceiling: Jennifer Lawrence tops highest-paid actresses list — but she still makes less than male A-listers
I couldn’t decide whether to post this here or in ‘women in film’ so I went for both.

It’s a really interesting piece that highlights that the top female stars barely out-earn mediocre male stars and also give a much better return on investment. It may seem that when someone’s getting paid millions it really doesn’t do them any favours to complain but the point is that these are women who have the clout to be able to complain, and if even they can’t get pay equity, how on earth are women with much less influence and power ever going to?