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July 11, 2022updated 14 Jul 2022 9:59am

DevOps has a gender pay gap problem. Critics are calling for change

Women in DevOps roles earn 5% less than their male counterparts, and the gap is even wider in the UK.

By Afiq Fitri

If you’re looking to deliver secure code efficiently, adopting DevOps might be a good start. By uniting software development and operations teams under one roof, the methodology allows for greater security and efficiency in the delivery of key updates and new program rollouts. Unsurprisingly, it also entails a cultural change for IT departments as they adapt to these new workflows. As such, roles in DevOps are known to demand close collaboration with colleagues and long hours. 

But DevOps roles also have an embarrassingly large gender pay gap. According to a new report from tech recruitment platform Hired, female DevOps developers are paid 5% less on average compared to their male colleagues. That discrepancy is particularly pronounced in the UK, where men are paid 7.5% on average more than female colleagues. As the battle for tech talent heats up, critics are calling on the IT industry to ramp up its efforts to eliminate these gender wage disparities across the sector as demand for talent continues to rise.

Why does the Tech sector have a wide pay gap?

One of the reasons for the sharp wage disparity in the UK’s DevOps sector is that women are lowballing their preferred salaries compared to men, according to Josh Brenner, CEO of Hired.  The average gender wage gap in the UK is already at 2.8%, higher than in the US and Canada. Meanwhile, salary expectations for women working in London’s tech sector are likely to be 4.7% less than what men receive.

“While we can’t draw direct conclusions from the data, this may be the reason London has the largest gender wage gap, with women being offered just £0.91 for every £1.00 offered to men for the same roles,” he says.

Is the DevOps gender pay gap improving?

Some progress in closing the gender pay gap is happening, says Brenner: the percentage of women being offered a lower salary in the capital has fallen by 4% since 2018. 

For others like Femi Otitoju, however, the pace of progress remains painfully slow. One of the biggest reasons for the gender pay gap in DevOps, says one of the founders of Challenge Consultancy and EW Group, often boils down to the gendered division of labour: specifically, how women are perceived to be less capable in more technical roles compared to those in product management.

“These roles are often associated with high levels of flexibility, with workers being expected to fight fires constantly and to be available at certain times of the day after work,” says Otitoju. This is in spite of the fact that women tend to be lumped with more childcare responsibilities, limiting the amount of time they can devote to projects out of hours. “And even if the job doesn’t actually require it, there’s an implicit perception that it will. So, you have this situation where women are either not putting themselves forward for these roles, or not being taken seriously when they do.”

Other issues related to common misperceptions of what a leader should look and sound like compound the problem. “Job postings for DevOps roles will require the candidate to be able to lead, or to have a certain level of gravitas to them, both of which are values that people often associate with men,” says Otitoju. “But it’s actually a double bind, because if women do manifest quick decision-making, for example, they’re often not seen as [being] positive qualities as they’re seen in men.”  This creates a situation where women might internalise these issues, and therefore ask for lower salaries, adds Otitoju. 

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Debbie Forster, meanwhile, believes the responsibility for the gender pay gap in DevOps should lie with tech companies themselves. Citing a recent study which found a lack of diversity in senior leadership roles to be the second biggest challenge in augmenting diversity throughout a business, the UK CEO of the Tech Talent Charter believes that the lack of women at the top is tipping the pay gap scale. 

“Companies need to adopt dedicated interventions to address this and, while there’s no silver bullet, taking a conscious decision to adopt more inclusive work practices specifically targeted at supporting the retention and development of women into senior roles has an important part to play,” says Forster. “Mentoring, flexible work, returners and retraining programmes can all help attract and retain top female talent and help address this imbalance.”

But for those looking to enter the tech industry, Otitoju believes that women, especially women of colour, should seize the opportunities available and demand equal pay amidst a booming job market and an ongoing war for talent in the UK’s tech industry. 

“As a black woman, there has never been a time before when we were more sought after [than now],” she says. “Everyone’s looking at their data and then looking for black women who are going to help move the needle. So, it’s time to get those shoulder pads out and get ready to claim that space.”

Read more: Women are bearing the brunt of falling employment in the tech sector

Home page image by hyejin kang/iStock

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