Having an eye to the often poor fortunes of women working in IT/ICT for the last fifteen years, I have been aware that one of the understated problems which makes it difficult to retain women in technology is the gender pay gap.
The disparity in wages for men and for women is just depressing. Some years ago a woman from the Equal Opportunities team ran me off the figures specific to IT. At a time when the UK average pay gap was 17% it was horrifying to find that the gap for women working in Tech was nearer to 23%. Horrifying because there was no obvious justification. Technology careers do not require workers to lift anything heavy - so the male physique does not confer any special advantage. Nor do the fellas have the monopoly on intellectual prowess, since women come out of the UK's Universities with some of the best qualifications.
This week I needed to check that there had been no significant change in the figure and note that the ONS now suggest that the pay gap for women working in programming / data etc is 27%. This is an OUTRAGEOUS state of affairs. The thought that we in the UK IT industry reward a man 27% more for the same work is truly shocking. That means that a salary of £40K for a man would be less than £30K for a woman for the same work and equal skills, and this over a working lifetime could equate to a third of a million pounds, not to mention the detriment to the pension.
'Ah Ha' you might say, 'but women leave the workplace to have children and are therefore damaging their earnings potential.' But that point presupposes that women have children for purely selfish reasons, and not in support of the perpetuation of the human race. More importantly, research this year, suggests that single and childless women fare just as badly in the career stakes. Therefore we can expect that their salaries will be equally affected.
For me, it is time that the leaders of our industry got real about the impact of the gender pay gap on the retention of women in Tech. I have absolutely no doubt that the leaders of HR departments and Payroll Managers have full awareness of the problem and are not moving on it because of the impact on their bottom line. They fail to see that when a woman leaves their organisations, they take with them the skills which have been bought at some cost over the duration of their employment. They also leave a gap which needs to be filled, usually incurring significant recruitment and retraining costs.
It really is time that the government mandated gender pay audits across the UKs industries, starting first with those organisations and institutions which have been found errant in employment tribunals within the last five years. It is time that we complied with the law (which is over three decades old) which says that we should reward equal work equally. When we do this, the technology industry can prove to other industries that we are forward thinking and fair to all of our workers.