Biggest pay gap in America: Computer programmers

The tech industry's best jobs have a gender problem.

Steve Rhodes/Demotix/Corbis

Women in tech jobs face an unpleasant fact: male programmers, developers and engineers make more, even when they work at the same company, have the same education and share identical levels of experience.

Steve Rhodes/Demotix/Corbis

Life is sweet for computer programmers. Companies crave their coding skills and will do anything to attract and keep them -- from $100,000 signing bonuses, salaries in the $100,000 to $200,000 range and even company-funded ski trips to Tahoe.

But being a computer programmer is even sweeter if you're a guy.

That's the obvious verdict from a report released Wednesday by job recruiting site Glassdoor, which examined the salaries of 500,000 full-time employees across 157 different occupations.

Glassdoor's "Demystifying the Gender Pay Gap" report concludes that, when it comes to women's pay, computer programming is the most unfair occupation in America. On average, a woman makes 28 percent less than a man with the same job -- and the same education, years of experience and age, among other factors.

Put another way, that means women earn about 72 cents for every dollar men earn.

And yeah, it's pretty extreme. That pay imbalance is about five times larger than the average pay gap across all professions in the US, per Glassdoor.

It gets slightly better for women in other technical roles like game artists, security specialists, data scientists and software architects -- but not by much.

"I don't think there are any examples of technical jobs where there is a pay advantage for women," says Andrew Chamberlain, Glassdoor's chief economist.

The latest analysis just reinforces a common story line about Silicon Valley: It's a bro-dominated industry where women have a tough shot getting a fair shake.

That may or may not be.

Even so, the report also finds that tech is on par with the national average once you look at other industries. After taking into account differences in education and experience, men working at tech companies overall make 5.9 percent more than women do, compared with a 5.4 percent difference across the US.

Actually, health care and insurance have the worst records when it comes to equal pay. In both cases, men earn 7.2 percent more than women with the same qualifications. (In contrast, bragging rights go to aerospace and defense and agriculture and forestry, which have the smallest pay gap: 2.5 percent.)

It's important to note that Glassdoor's survey has some limitations. The company's data come from online job postings, so its study might not include many lower-paying jobs at tech companies, like assembly line work, gardening or kitchen help.

Differences in education, age and years of experience "explain little" of tech's gender pay gap, says the report.

One problem, of course, is that tech companies have few women in their most important roles.

Evidence from tech giants themselves confirms that. In Microsoft's latest diversity report, the company reported that women comprise 26.8 percent of its workforce, but only 17 percent work in tech positions or hold leadership roles. Twitter said women filled 13 percent of its technical jobs in 2015, and women at Google account for 18 percent of the search giant's technical jobs.

To shrink the gap, Glassdoor suggests policies lightening the burden of child and elderly care as well as those ensuring that women have greater access to science and technical training.

Of course, if history repeats itself, attracting more women to technical roles might not have the desired effect. A study by two Stanford University sociologists finds that when women enter predominantly male jobs, the pay drops.

Correction 8:51 A.M.: An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed a one-off cash bonus as a signing bonus.

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