Unequal Pay: The Worst and Best Cities for Women in Tech

It’s no secret that a wage gap exists between men and women, and that there are groups working to narrow the divide. But did you know that the disparity of pay between male and female workers, in the tech field at least, is larger in some areas of the country than others?

While that much may be intuitive, the ranking of top cities for women tech workers features some surprises. SmartAsset, a New York-based fintech company that provides advice on personal finance decisions, studied U.S. Census data from 2014 to judge which cities in the U.S. have the best employment situation for women in tech.

Not a ton has changed since SmartAsset, which raised $5.2 million in a 2014 Series A, put out a similar study last year.

Washington, DC, and Kansas City, MO, maintained the top two spots in the ranking, in part because of their relatively nominal gap in pay between women and men (women make 99.3 percent of what men do in DC, and 100.8 percent in Kansas City). Kansas City was also a top-10 finisher in a recent ranking of cities for women-owned businesses compiled by WalletHub, a personal finance website.

However, in terms of Xconomy cities, one of the 10 regions we cover leapt to third place: Detroit.

Other Xconomy regions did not fare so well. San Diego dropped far from its 24th-place 2015 ranking. The fast-growing metropolis of Austin, TX, known for attracting tech startups from all over the U.S., came in near the bottom of the 58-city list. Overall in the U.S., SmartAsset says women working in tech earn about 85 percent of what men do.

Here are where about two dozen cities in Xconomy’s 10 regions ranked in SmartAsset’s study. (The study weighted each city’s ranking based on women as a percentage of the workforce, the gender pay gap in tech, a person’s income after housing costs, and the growth or contraction of tech employment since 2011.)

—Detroit ranked third. The city took first place in three of the four categories that SmartAsset studied, in particular outshining every other city by paying women 122.8 percent of what men make on average. But Detroit fell in the rankings because of its workers’ average after-housing income, a little over $42,569, the 12th lowest nationally. Detroit’s tech employment has also skyrocketed by 32 percent and women make up almost half of the workforce, 44.5 percent.

—New York came in seventh. There may be nothing too shocking about New York’s results: Women are paid 93.6 percent that of men in tech, and comprise only 26.3 percent of the workforce. Growth in tech employment has also been moderate at 12 percent. Income after housing: $57,405.

—Denver was ninth. The Colorado city had one of the smallest gender gaps in the list at 97.4 percent, along with 24.2 percent of its tech workforce being female. It has seen 13 percent growth in tech jobs since 2011. Colorado Springs, CO, was the 30th best city for women tech workers, though women make up a lowly 19.5 percent of its workforce. SmartAsset ranked Aurora, CO, 50th.

—Milwaukee, WI, ranked 14th overall, with women earning 98.3 percent as much as their male counterparts. The city’s tech workforce is made of 32.2 percent women workers. Its job growth declined by 1 percent, however. The college town of Madison, WI, ranked 57th on the list, offering women 78.5 percent the pay that employers offer men.

—San Francisco landed at 19th, providing women tech workers only 83.4 percent of the pay that men got. Women also only accounted for 22.6 percent of the workforce, even as it grew by 24 percent. Oakland, CA, came in at 20th, while the Bay Area city of Fremont, CA, tied Denver for ninth overall. SF income after housing: $64,388.

—Boston, which employed a larger number of women in tech (28.5 percent) than the national average of 26.5 percent, ranked 21st. It has seen 15 percent growth in its tech jobs, though companies there paid women at 84.9 percent the comparable male wage. Income after housing: $45,702.

—Houston and Dallas come next on the list at 22nd and 25th, respectively. Women make up about 25 percent of the tech workforce in both cities. Just outside of Dallas, Plano, TX, employs 26.9 percent, bringing its ranking up to 17th. Houston income after housing: $52,212.

However, the fast-growing tech hub of Austin appears to not be a hotspot for female tech workers, according to SmartAsset. It ranked 55th, and businesses there offered women only 79.6 percent the pay of men. Women only accounted for 21.2 percent of the workforce there. San Antonio ranked a little better at 51st, while Irving, TX, came in at 41st. Fort Worth and Arlington ranked 38th and 28th, respectively. Austin income after housing: $46,922.

—Seattle, despite having 23 percent growth in the number of its tech jobs, ranked 38th. Women made up just over one-fifth of the workforce, while those few employed in the industry earned 80.4 percent that of men. Income after housing: $57,602.

—San Diego came in at No. 41, offering a dismal 7 percent growth in the number of overall tech jobs since 2011. About 23 percent of the city’s tech workers were women, while they earned 84.1 percent the amount of male workers. Income after housing: $54,079.

—Durham and Raleigh, NC, ranked 53rd and 56th. Employers in both cities offered female workers less than 79 percent of the salaries of male workers. Female tech employees made up about 25 percent of the workforce in both Raleigh and Durham.

David Holley is Xconomy's national correspondent based in Austin, TX. You can reach him at dholley@xconomy.com Follow @xconholley

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