This year the government announced a law forcing companies with more than 250 employees to publish data on their gender pay gap. Why? Because despite years of debate and supposed progress, women still make less than men for doing the same job. It’s that simple.
And disappointingly Britain is among the most unequal in Europe, registering the biggest increase in the EU’s gender pay gap in 2015. In the tech sector this issue is particularly prevalent – last year our Women, Work and the State of Wage Inequality report found women in the tech industry are paid 4% less than male colleagues. In fact, men receive higher salary offers for the same job title, at the same company, a shocking 63% of the time.
This has got to change. I am proud to have called the tech industry home for so many years, but if we don’t do something about the gender wage gap there’s a risk that talented women will be put off. Worse: we’ll lose the ones we already have.
When the tech industry is already suffering a significant skills shortage across the world, it’s in the interest of all of us to force change.
Do I think the new government legislation is a positive step? Absolutely. Do I think it’s enough? Sadly not.
To create a level playing field, every tech employer needs to step up and take action. Here are some of the ways you can do that.
Be honest about the problem
By now we all know the gender pay gap is an issue – largely because of the coverage it’s received but also because many of us have been directly impacted by it.
Yet very few companies are willing to publicly admit they’ve got a problem. As of last month, just 85 of the 9,000 firms required to publish gender pay gap data under the new government legislation had done so. If every organisation made a commitment to be open and honest, it would become a collective problem to solve – not the responsibility of any business in particular.
Until we take that step I don’t see how we’ll ever close the gap.
Remove unconscious bias
As for the practical steps organisations can take to start creating gender pay equality, one place to start is limiting the influence of unconscious bias in the interview process and during compensation discussions.
Such biases have no doubt played a huge part in creating the gender wage gap. In one experiment a few years ago, participants were asked to rate two CVs that were identical aside from the names: one male-sounding and one female-sounding.
The results are painful to read, if not surprising: both male and female participants were more likely to rate the male candidate as more competent and suggest a higher starting salary than the female candidate.
Granted this is only one study, but if the fact someone is a women is impacting the way people value them in the workplace it’s clearly going to influence the pay gap.
You can get around this problem by using data to make compensation decisions, i.e. paying people what they’re worth based on third-party information rather than human judgement or instinct.
Training, too, can go a long way to helping you temper this problem. Anyone who is responsible for hiring or salary decisions needs to be trained in how to spot and avoid unconscious bias – something tech giants like Facebook are already getting on board with.
Use knowledge to create power
The fact many women historically haven’t known they’re underpaid has been a huge contributing factor to the gender pay gap. Today there’s no excuse for that. Companies can use data to ensure everyone is paid a fair wage regardless of gender, race, age or anything else. And as employers all of us must pledge to use this information to create a fairer working environment for all.
I urge individual women to play a role in this movement too. You can access data that tells you exactly how much you should be paid. Take that knowledge and let it empower you to ask for what you’re worth.
If you think you’re underpaid, go ask for a pay rise.
Not next month or next week. Not tomorrow. But right now.
And if your current employer doesn’t think you should be paid as much as your male counterpart, I urge you to find one that does.