Let me be blunt: I feel very strongly about gender equality. It is shameful we live in the year 2014 and still have to discuss this topic. Humans should be judged by their character, contributions or opinion -- not by factors such as race, gender or religion. Please keep that in mind when I characterize existing gender salary gaps with such words as “only” and “just” below.
That said, recently Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In and President Barack Obama’s directives aimed at closing the salary gap between men and women have brought the topic of gender salary gap back into the spotlight. Though the president’s orders are specifically limited to federal contractors, the gender-pay discrepancy happens across all industries. This includes the tech industry. While it's one of the lowest overall, the gender salary gap in the tech industry was still a whopping 20 percent, according to the August TriNet SMBeat report, based on more than 8,000 firms that are clients of my HR services company,TriNet.
Though the tech vertical still employs higher numbers of male employees than female, in recent years more women have become developers, engineers and technology entrepreneurs. As the tech workforce changes, so do the salaries. For example, within New York's tech industry, according to TriNet's August report, women in software engineering positions showed the best female-to-male salary comparisons within the sector just a 9.1 percent difference (as opposed to those working in sales, marketing or administrative positions),
In addition, when comparing management positions for men and women nationwide across all industries to the tech industry, there's further upside for women in technical occupations. For example, according to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women in management positions across all industries in the country earned 28 percent less than men in 2012. Computer and information system managers, however, earned only about 12 percent less.
After decades of debate, concrete explanations for the gender salary gap have yet to be proved. In addition to disproportionate distribution of gender across occupations, accusations of discrimination along with a combination of social, educational and economic factors are often cited as reasons behind inconsistencies in pay.
While the data seems to point to better job opportunities for women in tech, the question remains: What does this mean for business owners, including ones in the tech industry?
Regardless of the reasons behind the gender salary gap or personal opinions on this hot-button issue, there are practical reasons for business owners to address these discrepancies.
One prominent reason is retention of top talent. Like everyone else, women who are fairly compensated are less likely to look for new job opportunities. Also, when workers feel they are paid fairly, they tend to have a more positive outlook on their work. Positive morale has been shown to lead to increased productivity in the workplace. All these factors combined mean a better business outlook for employers who want to build an enduring business.
What can owners do to make sure their female workers are compensated at the same level as their male counterparts? They should identify if there is a gender salary gap within their own company. This can be done through self-auditing, which will ensure there are no unexplained discrepancies; they can consult with counsel regarding the possibility of doing an audit protected by privilege. If discrepancies are found, employers should adjust salaries and refine human resources policies to accurately align pay based on completed work and skill sets rather than gender.
In the long run, this has the additional benefit of helping support the position of the employer, should there be any future claims of discrimination based on gender.
When stepping back from this controversial issue and looking at it from a business perspective, closing the salary gap benefits not only the employees, but also the employer. Therefore, taking action to eliminate wage gaps based on gender will help a company grow and survive. There may even be a bigger benefit: It will help us evolve as humans.
Related: Seven Employee Warning Signs
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