Gender Equality: Bridging the Wage Gap for Women in Tech

by Sandra Petrova

9 min read

The good news is that the percentage of women in the U.S. labor force has increased to 46.8 percent over the past decades. The bad news? It’s still lower in the tech industry. According to tech companies’ diversity reports, female employees make up between 26 percent (Microsoft) and 43 percent (Netflix) of the workforce at major tech companies.

On the bright side, Laura Malcolm, from Avanade, thinks that we might not be seeing it yet, but the workplace diversity is steadily growing. When she began her work as a technologist more than twenty years ago, the environment was entirely male. However, when she attended the Women of Silicon Roundabout Conference in London, there were 4,500 people, the majority of them women.

The digital revolution is working on the side of women. As technology becomes more and more consumable, businesses and technology companies worldwide need more people working. There’s a growing need for more creativity, social skills, thinking minds, designers, and strategists.

Regardless of the digital revolution, Adeva’s research discovered that only 3% of women students would see themselves pursuing a career in technology.

As claimed by 500 interviewed participants worldwide, there is a number of barriers that prevent women from starting a career in tech. On top of the list is a lack of mentors, followed by lack of female role models and gender bias.

With 35% of the interviewees pointing unequal pay to be a barrier for women in the tech sector, this issue persists. In order to move the tech industry into the 21st century, understanding the wage gap is essential.

“Having a diverse environment at Adeva encourages innovative thinking for any of the challenges we are facing on a daily base. When different people look into things as a team there are always new perspectives and the results are extraordinary”, says Tosho Trajanov, CEO at Adeva.

How Has the Role of Women in Tech Evolved Over the Years

Did you know that the first computers that were created weren’t machines and that the first programmers weren’t men? They both were female.

Augusta Ada Lovelace is known as the first computer programmer who worked on Charles Babbage’s proposed mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine. Katherine Johnson played a major role in 1962, during NASA’s orbital mission of John Glenn. Margaret Hamilton was among the first computer programmers that led the Software Engineering Division of the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory.

Today, women can be located holding top positions in many tech companies. Take Sheryl Sandberg who became the first woman to serve on Facebook’s board of directors. Ginni Rometty heads IBM, serving in the capacities of Chairman, President, and CEO. She is the first woman to do so. The list goes on with Ursula Burns who became the first African-American woman CEO to head a Fortune 500 company. She had worked for Xerox since 1980.

Over the years, women have been a growing proportion of the STEM workforce. Compared to 1970, when only 7% of the workforce was female, this number has grown to 26% in 2011. However, the wage pay gap still persists, enhancing women’s hesitation to join the tech field.

What Can Iceland Teach Us About Gender Equality?

Iceland is among the best countries in the world to be a woman. It’s been regularly voted as the world’s most gender-equal country and is among the first countries to elect a female president. What’s more, roughly 50% of Iceland’s MPs and company directors are women.

Although Iceland has voted an equal pay act since 1961, women in the country still make nearly 14% to 20% less than their male counterparts.

In an attempt to close the gender pay gap, Iceland has become the first country in the world to enforce equal pay. Starting from January 2018, any public or private body in Iceland employing more than 25 people that has not been independently certified as paying equal wages for work of equal value will face daily fines.

According to Daphne Romney, one of the UK’s leading barristers in equal pay litigation, most countries have equal pay laws. In the UK, they were established in 1970. It’s the European Union right to equal pay, which gives workers the right to go to civil court or a tribunal.

However, although most countries allow workers to take action against employers, the problem is that “it takes years of slog to get it to court, let alone get to the point of compensation.”

In Iceland, it's a criminal offense for employers if they fail to take action on unequal pay. It’s similar to a health and safety violation. Meaning, there will be a violation of inaction which will trigger job evaluation schemes.

So, can this model be made to work on a global scale?

What Are Some of the Factors that Contribute to the Tech Industry Wage Inequality?

Unconscious Bias

Is discrimination hard-coded? According to bias studies, 90% of Westerners associate negative concepts with the group ‘elderly’; 75% of white people (and 50% of black people) show an anti-black bias and 75% of men and women associate ‘women’ with ‘family’ rather than with ‘career’.

Another 2016 study by Github compared acceptance rates from men and women in the open-source software community. Unexpectedly, the contributions from women gained greater approval than those from men. However, the acceptance rates dropped once the gender was uncovered.

Tech recruiters around the world report issues with the tech recruitment processes. A core component of the recruitment process for developers is the ‘tech test’. However, the gamification aspect of this type of test also favors male applicants, as they are socialized to perform better at such tasks. Due to low confidence, women are seven times more likely to stop practicing technical interviews than men.

Women’s Imposter Syndrome

Undervaluing their accomplishments is another reason for the wage gap for women in IT. Fifty percent of the women said they frequently experience imposter syndrome, and 34% said they sometimes do. High-achieving women often doubt their own abilities, resulting in their unfair treatment in the technology sector.

Relying on Past Income to Inform Salary Offers

Hiring managers that rely on past income are an additional factor that contributes to the tech industry’s wage inequality problem. To address this issue, the state of California passed a law in 2017 that prohibits employers from asking potential employees about their previous salary. Moreover, they have to give applicants a pay range for the job they’re interviewing for.

Ideas on How to Overcome the Gender Pay Gap for Women in IT

Open Discussions

By having open discussions, women will become aware of a possible pay disparity at their workplace and act on it. This can happen through open discussions with a colleague, a conversation with alumni from the company, or a conversation with a member of the HR team.

Collaboration Between Companies, the Government, and Women.

Company leaders are responsible for the significant wage gap between men and women in the tech industry. They should offer the same amount of salary to both parties, regardless of their gender. The government has no less blame in this unfair treatment of tech women and should mandate gender parity through policy. For women, overcoming the wage gap is only possible with them knowing their worth and not letting anyone discredit their achievements.

Global Programs That Will Provide Visibility and Resources for Women in Technology

Google is already achieving this with its Women Techmakers Program. Since 2014, Women Techmakers is continually launching global initiatives and coming up with new programs to empower women in IT. It’s a platform for celebrating women tech talents and spotlighting role models. What’s more, the program has been sponsoring full scholarships for technical certification courses to women all over the world.

Girls Who Code, a nonprofit organization, strives to support and increase the percentage of females in computer science. It operates with a single mission and that is to close the gender gap in technology.

The Hackbright Academy is another great program for software development. Here, women can learn the skills to become full-time software engineers. They are on a mission to provide women with an individualized path to a software engineering career. In addition, they have over 700 graduates working at tech companies that include Google, Dropbox, and Airbnb.

people collaborating at work

Our Vision for the Future of Women in IT

Adeva’s report aims to address the gender pay gap for women in tech and to help you understand the following points:

  • What is the state of gender equality and the gender pay gap on a global level?
  • Is there anything we can we learn from Iceland’s “war” on gender inequality?
  • What causes the gender pay gaps?
  • What steps can we all take to address the issue?

Hopefully, this report will teach us that we can all play a role in the creation of an equal, diverse, and inclusive workplace. In our vision, the workplace of the future is the one that is free of deep-rooted gender bias and celebrates equality.


  • A study by Adeva found that the medium Silicon Valley male makes 61% more than the median Silicon Valley female. Women make an average of $56,120, while men make an average of $90,353.
  • Iceland is among the best countries in the world to be a woman. Attempting to close the gender pay gap, Iceland has become the first country in the world to enforce equal pay.
  • Although most countries allow workers to take action against employers, the problem is that “it takes years of slog to get it to court."
  • Unconscious bias, Imposter syndrome, and relying on past income to inform salary offers are some of the key factors for wage inequality for women in IT.
  • The gender gap for women in tech can be resolved through open discussions, a collaboration between companies, the government, and women, and through global programs.
Sandra Petrova
Sandra Petrova
Senior Content Editor

Sandra is a Senior Content Editor, particularly interested in the future of work. Her most valuable talent is searching under every rock to discover valuable information and incorporate it into well-written and insightful posts. When she's not typing in Google Docs, you can find her reading a fantasy novel, binging on Netflix, or watering her plants.

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