Some Cause for Optimism in Hired’s Research on Gender Wage Gap

Amid the ongoing conversation about gender discrimination in the tech industry, and recent sexual harassment claims against some of its biggest names, here’s some sort-of good news about women in tech:

When companies make job offers to both men and women, women receive lower salary offers 63 percent of the time for the same job, according to San Francisco-based Hired, an online matchmaker for jobseekers and tech companies.

That may not sound like cause for rejoicing, but it’s a bit better than last year’s numbers, when Hired found that women got lower offers 69 percent of the time.

What may be more encouraging for women and minority groups under-represented in tech (who were included in Hired’s analysis of job searches on its own platform), is that the secrecy surrounding tech employment patterns is breaking down.

Hired’s report, released earlier this week, is part of a growing flow of information as the tech industry comes under increasing pressure to reveal and justify its hiring and promotion practices. Uber recently unveiled the percentages of women and minority members serving as staffers and leaders in its workforce, which was shown to be heavily skewed toward white men. Uber offered those numbers as it coped with an uproar that arose after former Uber engineer Susan Fowler, in a blogpost that went viral, said Uber took no action after she and other women complained about sexual harassment by a manager at the company.

The growing access to tech employment data gives job candidates from underrepresented groups more power to negotiate—a declared mission for Hired as a company, says Hired data scientist Jessica Kirkpatrick (pictured above.)

In Hired’s second diversity report, one tentative lesson for women might seem to be, “Ask and you shall receive.’’

Women not only receive less money from their new employers, they also ask for less, according to the report. On average, the difference is 4 percent; but in some cases, women asked for as much as 80 percent less than a comparable man would request. Employers base their compensation offers on these “preferred salaries” stated by candidates in their Hired profiles, Kirkpatrick says.

But does that mean women could reverse the pay gap merely by being more demanding? Not necessarily. The salary-setting dance can be as complex as the strategic ploys in home buying and selling, and it’s much more intertwined with cultural and psychological factors.

Like other professionals, experienced women in tech often base their “preferred salary” on the salary they’re making in their current jobs. And that number can have “years of bias and sexism baked in,” Kirkpatrick says. For example, women are promoted less quickly than men, she says.

Kirkpatrick seems well-positioned to ponder the social and cultural experiences that lie behind the statistics. She earned a PhD in astrophysics from UC Berkeley, writing her thesis on quasars. If she had gone to “a more welcoming school,” she might have become an astronomy professor, she says. But one factor that may have influenced her decision to leave both academia and astronomy was the treatment of women in her department.

“It certainly didn’t make me feel warm and fuzzy about it,” Kirkpatrick says.

At Berkeley, Kirkpatrick joined in a complaint against a highly successful researcher and professor, Geoffrey Marcy, who was accused of sexually harassing women graduate students over a period of close to 10 years. She said in the complaint that she witnessed one such incident at a meeting, intervened, and talked it over with the woman targeted. (After Berkeley’s investigation came to light, Marcy resigned in 2015.)

Rather than vying for a university post after graduation, Kirkpatrick chose to work in the tech industry, where data science was becoming a hot field and where she expected to have many more potential employers.

She landed a job quickly. But “as we’ve seen recently, tech is not perfect,” she says.

Looking back now, Kirkpatrick says she failed to negotiate well when she accepted her first tech job out of grad school. She later discovered that similarly trained men were making thousands of dollars more than she was, in the same role at the same company.

Later, deciding to move on, she became a job candidate through Hired, where she received counseling on setting her pay expectations.

“It was not until going through the process at Hired that I realized I could actually ask for a lot more,” Kirkpatrick says. After stints at other tech companies, she joined Hired as a data scientist, and began analyzing hiring patterns based on anonymized data on thousands of interactions between tech companies and jobseekers.

Some findings in Hired’s 2017 report, “Women, Work, and The State of Wage Inequality,” suggest that younger women in tech are becoming better negotiators and eroding the gender salary gap—a contrast with the behavior of women candidates overall.

Women with less than one year of work experience asked for an average of 4 percent more than men did when they set their “preferred salaries” as job candidates on Hired’s platform in 2016. It paid off, Hired found. These women ended up … Next Page »

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Bernadette Tansey is Xconomy's San Francisco Editor. You can reach her at btansey@xconomy.com. Follow @Tansey_Xconomy

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