Today is Women’s Day. It is on this day that we should all take a moment, or more than a moment, to examine what the working world, and the tech industry in particular, is doing to include women.
62 years ago on August 9, thousands of women marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest the laws which would require all black South Africans to carry a pass. This would maintain population segregation, control urbanisation and manage migrant labour. Effectively, it was a law which controlled where people were able to live and work. It was a law which prevented people from the freedom and opportunities which should have been theirs.
Today, it has come to signify the many issues women still face like domestic violence, sexual harassment in the workplace and unequal pay.
It is the latter which Facebook boss Sheryl Sandberg, in particular, has championed. Earlier this year, on Equal Pay Day, Sandberg pointed to the all too real disparity between the salaries earned by men and women.
"Closing the gender pay gap is about basic fairness," she said. "It's about valuing women's work and investing in women's abilities. It's about supporting the families who depend on women every day. And it's about building an economy that makes the most of everyone's talent."
Disappointingly, especially for a country with South Africa’s devastating past, women of colour are paid even less. Despite this ongoing problem, the reasons for the disparities in pay between women and men cannot be fully explained.
“The consequences are real and painful. If the pay gap were closed, the average working woman would earn over half a million dollars more in her lifetime. The number of working women living in poverty would be cut in half,” Sandberg has said on her Facebook account.
“Every woman deserves to get paid what she’s worth. When women are paid less than men, it doesn’t just hurt women. It hurts our families, our businesses, and our communities. Equal pay affects all of us – and it will take all of us to fix it.”
There are many reasons women in tech are paid less than men.
The reasons are complex and varied. Research has found that women in tech are underpaid, passed by for promotion and face daily sexual harassment. It’s little wonder that the women who do enter the industry leave soon afterwards.
A recent study by market research company Statista found that the average pay gap in tech for cities across the US was about 16%. Another study, also released earlier this year, found that the pay disparity grows over time, as a candidate ages. Tech job platform Hired found that men and women received similar salaries at the start of their careers but this gap widened over time.
Aren’t convinced that gender diversity in tech is an important issue which needs to be addressed? Here is one of Hired's findings:
"We found that 63% of the time, men are offered higher salaries than women for the same role at the same company. On average, these companies offer women 4% less than men for the same role, with some offering women up to 45% less."
Luckily, times do appear to be changing. Moves are being made within the industry, locally and internationally, to be more inclusive, hire more women and pay women fairly. At Rogerwilco, for instance, more departments are headed up by women than men. The staff is pretty evenly split between men and women. And, importantly, the women of Rogerwilco are valued for their skills and their expertise.