We know that what you get paid working in an IT job depends on both the role you choose and the city you end up working in. But there’s another entrenched factor which seems entirely unfair: female employees in tech earn less than their male counterparts.
There’s no logical reason for that kind of disparity, other than the long-established disparity for female wage earners across virtually every industry. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), women account for 25% of the bottom 20% of income earners in Australia, while men account for 15%. In the top 20%, the positions are reversed: 29% of men are in that top tier, while only 11% of women are. While the situation has improved slightly over the last three decades, income inequality remains an unplesant fact of modern Australian life.
That appears to translate all too readily into the IT sector, though it has to be said that working in IT presents less of a gap than the overall market. A research paper by ITCRA (the Information Technology and Contract Recruitment Association) based on its SkillsMatch contractor data and released to media last week suggests that women working in IT earn 97 cents in the dollar relative to men. That’s an improvement on the overall work market, where women earn just 82 cents in the dollar. But why should there be even that three cent difference?
The main reason for the gap, according to ITCRA’s analysis, is that women are often working in what are seen as less “prestigious” career areas. Within the 25-34 age group, for instance, more than half the applicants in training contractor positions are female, for instance, reflecting a longstanding trend both in and out of IT for women to take on educational roles. For support technicians, however, just 13% of applicants in the same age range were female, ITCRA found. And while women who persist in that “traditionally” female training role may end up earning more than male counterparts at the same level, training remains one of the lower-paid sectors overall.
While people should be free to choose whatever job they like, and factors such as workplace flexibility and location will play a role in many decisions, there’s no logical reason why there should be such a disparity. But that seems to be something we’re still sadly stuck with. As ITCRA CEO Julie Mills put it:
The SkillsMatch data supports public perception that the ICT industry has two types of roles: some traditionally masculine and others traditionally feminine.
Those perceptions have a direct impact on salaries, since, as the paper explains, “remuneration is highest for a role when the gender of the individual matches the gendestereotype of the role . . . it can be seen that both males and females are being actively encouraged into certain roles while simultaneously being actively discouraged from other roles”.
Have you experienced discrimination while trying to enter an IT field which was typically associated with the opposite gender? How did you overcome it, and do you feel still feel rorted when it comes to pay? Tell us your story in the comments.
Evolve is a weekly column at Lifehacker looking at trends and technologies IT workers need to know about to stay employed and improve their careers.