Gender pay gap stats mask positive steps in tech sector

Out-Law Analysis | 27 Jun 2018 | 9:33 am | 4 min. read

ANALYSIS: The bare statistics on the gender pay gap in the UK's technology sector paint a disappointing picture, but they mask the positive steps being taken by businesses to address the disparity.

According to the data available on the government's online portal for gender pay gap reporting, a median pay gap of approximately 23% exists in the UK's information and communication sector, making it the sector with the fourth largest gender pay gap of all those in which companies reported – construction has the biggest gap.

The figure, compiled from data submitted by more 460 employers in the information and communication sector, reflects the fact that the technology sector is one of the least diverse sectors of the UK economy with overwhelming numbers of male employees within the companies that reported.

Currently, women make up just 17% of people in technology jobs in the UK, and the majority of tech companies also reported particularly high numbers of men across all pay quartiles in their gender pay gap reports. Even within the lower pay quartiles, often dominated by women, many companies revealed that more than half of their employees were male.

The gender pay gap in the UK's technology sector is also a product of other factors too.

A key theme within GPG reports of all companies was the lack of females who are studying science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects and developing careers in the industry. Only 24% of STEM graduates in 2017 were female. Of that 24%, only 14% were in technology and engineering. This has the collateral affect of hindering the recruitment process.

There is still a degree of unconscious bias at play within the sector too. According to the Fujitsu report, this is confirmed in research among STEM faculty which was undertaken by a social psychologist at Skidmore College. Corinne Moss-Racusin asked scientists to evaluate two identical CVs of candidates named either John or Jennifer. The results of this experiment demonstrated that discrimination between men and women continues to exist as a result of unconscious bias.

There is also a lack of women in more technical, engineering and sales roles which contributes greatly to the gender pay gap as these roles are higher paid and provide more opportunities for bonus payments. In addition, in some cases, roles such as engineering roles are higher paid than non-engineering roles as the market for their expertise is more competitive. This factor also amplifies the pay gap within this sector.

Many corporate groups, particularly the large technology companies, have been named and shamed by the press for having high gender pay gaps. However, in many cases the article only reported the statistics of the entity with the highest pay gap and failed to take into account the combined statistics for the UK workforce across the group as a whole. This would perhaps have given a more accurate picture of the gender pay gap within the organisation.

For example, technology giant Apple attracted negative media coverage for its high median gender pay gap of 24% within Apple UK Limited. However, its report revealed a combined gender pay gap of 2% in favour of women across its UK workforce.

Yet, despite some nuances, the data appears to back up research Mercer previously carried out which found that male employees within high-tech companies earn approximately 25% more than women. This demonstrates that the advanced technology sector faces the challenge of closing an even higher gap.

There are, however, examples of good practices in the market, with requirement to report gender pay gap statistics driving many companies to take steps to better understand what drives the imbalance and take positive steps to address it.

At a sector wide level, various TMT companies have partnered with Everywoman which is the world's largest network for women in business.

Companies are increasingly encouraging their employees to celebrate female talent by attending female focused networking events which aim to address the problem of gender inequality in STEM. As in many of our other sectors, companies are working hard to attract and inspire more girls to study STEM subjects and to pursue a career in the technology industry.

More and more companies are recognising the importance of nurturing female talent within their business. Many have created initiatives which aim to support female career progression. Others are providing mentoring and training for women at all stages of their careers to drive progression and increase the number of female employees at all levels within the business, while some companies are also working to inspire women through the creation of role models and sharing the experiences of talented females within the sector.

Some businesses in the sector are also focusing on putting in bias-free recruitment processes, with companies taking steps to address unconscious bias and others committing to drawing up short-lists for senior positions where women make up at least half of the candidates.

Partnering with 'Women in Tech' organisations also offers businesses the chance to reach out to more diverse candidate pools, while advertising for part-time engineers, like one company has done, and improving and adopting flexible working programmes can also help attract women into tech jobs.

Some companies in the information and communications sector have also signed up to the 30% Club which is a global campaign aiming for 30% female representation on FTSE 100 boards by 2020. The UK government-backed Tech Talent Charter is another example of initiatives companies can get behind.

These are all positive steps and show that technology companies in the UK are alive to the need to address gender pay disparity. The measures being taken should hopefully be reflected in a reduction to the gender pay gap reported by companies in the sector over time.

Amy Hextell is an employment law expert at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com.