Female IT Staff Are Still Getting Paid Less Then Males

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.


    I was told when I entered the industry a bit over 10 years ago as a computer technician that "IT was no place for a woman". I'm happy to say that I'm now employed as an Information Technologist (hardware and software) and am paid on an equal footing to my male colleagues. The person who made the comment is no longer in the industry and the company he managed went under financially...

    To say I've had an easy time in the industry would be an outright lie. Typically people just don't give you the time of day due to your gender. However, I have proven myself and am now earning more than most of the people in the same position as I am.

    Yeah, women get paid less than men. But women also take a huge percentage of the males pay. What they dont take the male ends up spending on them anyway.

    It all balances out.

      Hahahaha you're funny

    So female IT staff are generally in less valued positions? or are Female IT staff paid less than their male counterparts? There's a massive difference...
    2 people working the same job ought to be paid the same amount. 2 people working different jobs, shouldn't necessarily be paid the same...
    The news that people (not just women) working in low paid jobs are paid less is not news!

    As a 30 something year old, I'd be shocked if a female co-worker in the same position was being paid less than I. I suspect that a 50+ year old might have a different viewpoint and as such, I concede that such situations are likely to exist but are most likely on the decline as my generation (and more women) continues to take over the positions that dictate pay levels.

      Even though people doing the exact same job are likely (but I would think, not always) getting the same pay, that doesn't excuse the disparity.
      One cause is possibly (OK, definitely, in some areas) that in some sectors women are getting promoted less frequently although they may be entering the industry at the same rate as men. Thus, you get a build up of women in the more junior roles.

      Someone correct me if I'm wrong here, but I believe one of the biggest drivers in the pay disparity is the human services sector. Human services is grossly underpaid (everyone, not just women), yet contains a huge number of roles crucial to society. There also happens to be a large percentage of women working in human services. There is no reason to believe that those jobs are 'easier' or less stressful than other types of work. Human services workers are contributing an arguably more important service to society than many other much more highly paid workers are, so there is no excuse for having such a huge pay discrepancy. The argument should not be that those jobs should worth more pay because they're mostly filled by women, but rather that certain sectors and roles within those sectors should be reviewed to allow everyone to be paid fairly for the work that they're doing.

        Unfortunately, regardless of sex, the average salary of a particular sector is entirely subjective.

        Simply due to the biology of female vs male, they may be suited better to different sectors too. Your example of social worker may be down to a better ability for women to empathize, just as more physical labourers may be male due to a better ability to build muscle.

        The problem then is, you can't compare the work a social worker and a labourer does - it's apples and oranges. So, unfortunately due to circumstance, history, or even stereotyping, one may get paid lower than the other even though there are those who believe it should be the other way around.

          Precisely Jess...
          I agree with Jim that many sectors are outrageously overpaid and others, similarly are outrageously underpaid.
          BUT, we all know the approximate pay levels of our chosen sector when we enter the workforce..
          Noone expects to be paid $200/hour as a social worker, however they might if they were going into Law...

          The fact that more women choose to work in the lesser paid sectors is not an argument to say that women are paid less than men (unless the women working in the same roles are being paid less than the men).

          Similarly, the article is not saying that women are being denied promotion. (Any orgainsation that is promoting men over a more qualified female candidate is surely not going to last very long!)
          It is saying that women are being promoted into areas that have a ceiling though (ie it's pretty hard to make the jump to a position on the board of directors from IT Training).

    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%

    Wait, so women and men combine to acount for a total of 40% of the bottom 20% of income earners in Australia? Who makes up the other 60%?

    Women, rightly or wrongly are more likely to suffer the burden of time away from work in relation to family matters. If a man and a woman decide to have a child, the woman is more likely to need leave in relation to the pregnancy and is more likely to take time away from work for raising the child. The percentage of women who have children in their careers are statistically significant and time out of the workforce to pursue family will impede your career. If a guy takes the same time out of the workforce for family reasons - it damages his career just as much - but women are vastly more likely to end up taking that route. So as long as women remain the primary parents for the species - there's going to be a salary discrepancy.

    I think most of the active discrimination against women in IT is not about discriminating against women so much as preserving the performance of men who struggle to work with women (and by struggle I mean are socially awkward or shy).

    I've worked for a number of IT companies who either didn't employ women, or didn't employ conventionally attractive women in technical roles - because their existing technical staff were either too shy to work well with those women, or were too socially awkward to remain professional with those women and became unproductive when there were women in the team.

    It's by no means fair - but asking the technical resources of the IT industry to collectively abandon it's propensity to act like characters from 'The Big Bang Theory' around women is ignoring the reality of the industry and STEM fields in general.

      "I’ve worked for a number of IT companies who either didn’t employ women, or didn’t employ conventionally attractive women in technical roles – because their existing technical staff were either too shy to work well with those women, or were too socially awkward to remain professional with those women and became unproductive when there were women in the team.

      It’s by no means fair – but asking the technical resources of the IT industry to collectively abandon it’s propensity to act like characters from ‘The Big Bang Theory’ around women is ignoring the reality of the industry and STEM fields in general."

      That is seriously messed up. Those existing workers should either grow the fuck up or lose their jobs. Believe me I have a lot of empathy for the socially awkward, but that is a really pathetic excuse for not hiring someone. However bad things are being a male nerd, I can't imagine how much worse it must be being a female nerd and not only not fitting in with the 'general' population but also being ostracised by your peers because they're immature dickheads.

        +1 - that's just dumb.

      You're kidding, right???

        Look, I don't by any means think that it's the right thing to do - but if you're running a business, and you have a choice of firing 30 of your otherwise very competent staff because they're awkward nerds, and hiring an excellent female candidate for a new role. Or hiring a slightly less excellent male candidate... it's not rocket science which way most buisness owners are going to go.

        If you DO fire the 30 nerds, and by some miracle your business survives, it's going to be very, very difficult to find 30 highly competent replacement IT staff who aren't going to struggle to work with attractive women.

        It shits me to tears. But I just don't see the IT industy, much less STEM fields in general spontaneously growing up in the near future. And there's too much money in large scale STEM to fire every immature moron who works in those industies.

    The issue with a lot of these pay discrimination t consider the number of hours worked when explaining the difference in pay. It is against the sex discrimination act for someone to be paid a different rate and has been so for a long time. From my experience in IT jobs women are more likely(I know there are exceptions) to work less hours then their male counterparts due to family commitments/flexible working hours etc. I also found that they usually avoided overtime/on-call duties as well(again i'm sure there are exceptions)

    I am the only female on the network team where I work. I do pager duty, work countless hours overtime (more than most of the others) and I'm really good at what I do. I make significantly less than my co-workers and have been consistently steered toward softer projects despite my skill. The gender is real.

    I left out the gap in gender gap.

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