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The Future of Work

The Gender Wage Gap In Tech Might Not Be What We Thought

The wage gap is more complicated than the annual salary figure. Here's how it breaks down.

[Photo: Flickr user amboo who?]

Gender plays no role in compensation for technology professionals, according to a new salary analysis by Dice, a careers site for the industry.

Dice’s analysts took a deep dive into annual salary data of more than 16,000 tech professionals, and discovered that when men and women shared the same education levels, years of technical experience, and the same job title, there was no gender wage gap.

This is at odds with a recent PayScale report that indicated in the computer and mathematical field, there was a 3% wage gap between men and women—albeit not as wide as those in other industries, such as forestry or maintenance, which are as large as 9.4% and 7.6%, respectively.

But the wage gap is rarely as clear cut as the 77¢ for every dollar figure most often cited on the issue. It’s no less complex in the tech industry, according to Dice’s data.

In its latest Salary Survey, men on average made nearly $10,000 more in 2014 than women during the same year. But the numbers aren’t so black and white. What’s missing in the straight salary data are two factors that influence pay: years of experience and level of education. Dice analysts found that, controlling for these variables, average salaries for male and female tech professionals with parallel job titles are relatively equal.

In fact, Dice reports that companies place more importance on the number of years a professional has in the industry than education. This is particularly relevant as a recent survey of over 26,000 developers from StackOverflow, a Q&A site for developers, found that 42% reported being self-taught, and nearly half (48%) never received a computer science degree. It also helps with the fact that while women earn 57% of bachelor’s degrees in all fields, they hover between 18% and 19% of degrees in computer science and physics.

What the analysts did uncover was a "position" gap that explains the difference in compensation between men and women. That gap refers to the fact that men and women don’t hold the same position with the exception of two jobs: project manager and applications developer. The other eight positions in Dice’s Top 10 Occupations Lists for men and women revealed a significant salary differential between the two.

According to the Dice report:

The top 10 tech positions held by men in 2014 had average salaries ranging between $92,245 and $127,750; conversely, the top 10 tech positions held by women had salaries ranging between $43,068 and $98,328. This large-scale difference in salary ranges ($29,422-$49,177) demonstrates that the higher paying tech positions are more commonly held by men than by women. The obvious question is then why more of these positions are not being filled by females.

Unfortunately, Dice president Bob Melk can’t point to one single factor, although societal and lifestyle factors could play in to the disparity. But men and women aren’t all that different when it comes to motivation, career concerns, and satisfaction with their compensation.

On the surface, there’s a gap between the average bonus for men at $10,420 and for women at $8,899. However, controlling for years of experience and education makes that gap disappear. In terms of compensation satisfaction, men and women are neck and neck, with nearly 54% of men satisfied alongside 51% of women.

There is a clear difference in what employers are offering as compensation. Dice found that they are more likely to offer women flexible work hours or the ability to telecommute. For their male employees, compensation is still the primary incentive. "Whether this is based on conversations women are having with their managers or something else is unknown," Melk says.

Taking note of these subtle variations between incentives serves to remind employers that each professional should be afforded a range of compensation benefits. "Beyond providing competitive compensation, employers must look at other key drivers, such as challenging assignments and flexibility with work hours and location," says Melk. He adds, "Managers looking to hire and retain top talent should gain a better understanding of what drives their tech talent, regardless of gender."

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