Computer Scientists Make the Same Salary, Whether Male or Female.
January 7, 2015 3:26 PM   Subscribe

Female Computer Scientists Make the Same Salary as Their Male Counterparts - for a while. Whatever the reasons for the gender disparity in programming, at least to begin with, there's no actual salary difference between female and male programmers. According to a new study by the American Association of University Women, [PDF] there is no statistical difference between female and male programmers salaries one year out of college. The same holds true for women who go into engineering, mathematics and physical sciences"

smithsonian.com takes a look at the why of this. Previously by smithsonianmag.com
Computer Programming Used To Be Women’s Work.
posted by vapidave (36 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's my understanding that most large technology and engineering firms have fairly rigid payscales for graduates. It would surprise me more if early-career graduate women were paid less in equivalent roles - that would require incredibly obvious deliberately organised sexism, not something you'll find in a medium or large western corporation today. Certainly in the large European aerospace company I work for graduate salaries are pretty much completely in sync for the first 2 years.

Things definitely get a lot more murky further up the payscales and later in a career, where negotiations and the opinions of individual managers have much more influence.
posted by leo_r at 3:44 PM on January 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


Buried the lede in the article subtitle: "Only 20 percent of programmers are women, though"

A starting salary is often one of the few things employers don't have latitude on. All trainees get $X, and interns? Most often $0.
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:46 PM on January 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


A few observations on this:

Before large scale mechanical or electrical computing machines took off, "computer" was a job title. Mathematicians would come up with a an algorithm to calculate the value of a function, like cosine(x), by performing hundreds of simple operations like addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. They would hire up tons of people to each serve as a little unit, passing slips of paper around in a room, grinding out thousands of values which would be published in big volumes. "cos(0.0001) = ... cos(0.0002) = ... cos(0.9999) = ...". Some of the first of these efforts, in post-revolution France, employed wigmakers, since the market for wigs had gotten a lot smaller, and the wigmakers were accustomed to sitting in place all day performing small, repetitive tasks.

Supposedly at the beginning of WWII, the US military measured its computing capacity in kilo-girls.
posted by rustcrumb at 3:50 PM on January 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


interns? Most often $0

In CS?
posted by zippy at 3:51 PM on January 7, 2015 [13 favorites]


All trainees get $X, and interns? Most often $0.
Citation needed. This is informal, but consistent with my experience in the tech world.
posted by b1tr0t at 3:53 PM on January 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


Interns who can program, at least in silicon valley, are some of the highest paid interns. For example google interns make almost $70k.
posted by rustcrumb at 3:53 PM on January 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


In the linked study they say the pay differences across all fields are statistically significant, so I'm not sure why the article about it makes the opposite claim.

In software engineering, if an intern is getting $0 it's because they are very poorly informed.
posted by town of cats at 3:54 PM on January 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Uhm, I've worked with dozens of interns in this industry and they were all paid. (including the female ones, of which there are lots.)

It takes a certain kind of mind to program (or perhaps a certain set of mild personality disorders), but it appears that this isn't all that gender based.

I have seen a lot of women recently who took a programming class on a lark, had the right kind of mind for it and entered the industry.
posted by poe at 3:54 PM on January 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm sure this will come as a surprise conclusion to the authors of the study, who show that women with degrees in computer and information sciences had a statistically significant pay gap on page 14 of the PDF - women earning 77% of men's pay.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 3:56 PM on January 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


At least in the videogame industry, it's not entirely uncommon to find unpaid interns. If they're good and the company can actually afford to pay people, they get hired pretty quickly. If they're not and/or the boss is a dick and/or the company is in trouble, they get used up and replaced with other free labor.
posted by Foosnark at 3:57 PM on January 7, 2015


Oh hey, AAUW! I work there! And obviously I'm not commenting here in a professional capacity, and I didn't work on this report, but:

Homeboy Trouble - the graph you're looking at is pay differences by major. The graph the article is talking about is the one on page 17 which shows no significant difference in pay for men and women actually employed in "Math, computer, and physical science occupations". One of the places where the "gender gap" starts to come into play is between graduation and getting your first job, because even women with CS/IT degrees frequently report they don't feel welcome in the field.

And yeah, this unfortunately is not true if you look out multiple years after graduation, which is likely due to factors like a) US society strongly discouraging women from negotiating raises, b) discrimination against mothers, c) probably also ageism which does seem to affect women and men in different ways in my (admittedly limited) experience.
posted by capricorn at 4:06 PM on January 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


This article is a year old and was shitty when it came out the first time. You may have skimmed over the correction at the bottom, where they somehow manage to avoid saying "When this article was originally published it directly contradicted the findings of the study and was gleefully stupid about it and we realize now that the author doesn't know how to read a graph. We had to rewrite the whole thing but tried to keep the title the same".
posted by the agents of KAOS at 4:14 PM on January 7, 2015 [17 favorites]


The miracle of compounding:

(1.04)^10 = 3.51
(1.02)^10 = 1.88

Even from an identical starting salary over ten years, consistently lower raises (for women who dared not negotiate, or just weren't quite as 'good' as a man) are deadly.
posted by Dashy at 4:16 PM on January 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's my understanding that most large technology and engineering firms have fairly rigid payscales for graduates.

I think a lot of corporations have set pay scales at the lower/middle ranks so for grads a year out this isn't surprising. The gaps probably become more noticeable when there are promotions to management involved and/or at a level where salary is more negotiable. Or what capricorn said.
posted by MikeMc at 4:17 PM on January 7, 2015


There is a vast difference between development cultures and environments in Dilbert-esque corporate environments and engaging work at a startup or serious tech in military or aerospace environments, process control, banking or web apps. Trying to generalize about salaries and culture for 'programmers' is sort of hard. Some places have ranges and therein lies the rub, most just have a budget and some guy's judgment. See what I did there?
posted by sfts2 at 4:24 PM on January 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


(1.04)^10 = 3.51
(1.02)^10 = 1.88


Uh, no.

1.04^10 is 1.48
1.02^10 is 1.22
posted by RustyBrooks at 4:38 PM on January 7, 2015 [8 favorites]


It looks like you did 1.04^32 and 1.02^32
posted by RustyBrooks at 4:39 PM on January 7, 2015


The graph the article is talking about is the one on page 17 which shows no significant difference in pay for men and women actually employed in "Math, computer, and physical science occupations".

Oh, I know the difference - it seems unusual and unlikely to me that there is no actual difference between wages in the occupation when women earning the credential earn 30% less than men with the same credential. I'm sure some women, as you point out, don't feel welcome in computing, but I'd note that 5% of men and 1% of women had degrees in computer science, but 10% of men and 3% of women are working in that field, so presumably the majority of those with degrees are finding a place. (Especially for the first year out of college - I suspect the unfriendly tech workplace isn't the kind of thing that drives most women out in the first year, but is a more subtle sexist trap where women realize five years in that they are still not getting the same treatment as their male colleagues.)

I suspect (but of course the study helpfully omits the data) that there is a substantial average difference in salaries, but it fails to pass tests of statistical significance because it is a small field (10% of men, 3% of women) with a small sample, and particularly a small sample of women. Of course, the smaller the sample, the larger the difference needs to be to be statistically significant - even if it is the same actual average difference in terms of dollars. The figure on page 17 shows that of the six most common occupations, there is a statistically significant difference in salaries for five of them, while in the six least common occupations, there is no statistically significant difference in salary.

This may be a lucky coincidence that less common occupations are just more equal, or it may be a sample size issue - and the report actually describes one of the six less common occupations as not having enough data for the original source to even report the data (men in nursing - 1% of men). Women in engineering and computer science are 2% and 3% respectively, so they are juuuuust above the reporting threshold.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 4:53 PM on January 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


Keep in mind that AAUW specifically looks at undergraduate, 4 year degree education. There's a nonzero number of employees working in the field without completing that particular credential. In fact, I can think of a LOT of men I've met who have dropped out of college because a recruiter came calling, and the history of software companies is littered with successful male drop-outs, anecdotal though they may be.
posted by pwnguin at 5:09 PM on January 7, 2015


My apologies for the "interns = $0" derail. I'd seen so many reports about unpaid internships all around other corporate fields (especially the media) that I am pleasantly surprised that it's one area where Tech is genuinely doing much better. I now return you to our previous topic.
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:11 PM on January 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


anyone have recs for a better android calculator app?
posted by Dashy at 6:12 PM on January 7, 2015 [5 favorites]


Are women driven out of STEM careers via sexism from men, or are women just not interested in taking a STEM career? I never really figured that out.

I do know that many corporations penalize people for having a family and taking time off work, when women get pregnant and take maternity leave corporations don't treat them very well. They often use that against women in performance reviews. Trying to balance a career and a family and getting penalized for it can drive women away from a company or the STEM field.

If there is a difference in salary that has to do with management and HR and not male coworkers. It is a management problem and not a male problem.
posted by Orion Blastar at 7:12 PM on January 7, 2015


I suspect (but of course the study helpfully omits the data) that there is a substantial average difference in salaries, but it fails to pass tests of statistical significance because it is a small field (10% of men, 3% of women) with a small sample, and particularly a small sample of women.

It could also be an issue with how the data is broken down. The graph on pg 17, where they break things down by occupation and where there is NOT a significant difference, lumps together math, physical sciences, and computer science. In the graph on pg 14, where they break things down by major, biological, physical, mathematical, and agricultural sciences are all one category while computer and information sciences is its own. There's no significant pay differential in the math/sciences category, but there is for CS.

So it could be that there are significant differences in CS even when you look only at those who go into the field, but that they're drowned out once you combine the numbers with those from the math/science fields, where things seem to be more equal.

Another possibility is that CS doesn't have a significant gap, but that a gap appears once you combine it with information sciences. Especially if information sciences is lower-paid and/or skews female, you might see a significant gap by analyzing them together even if you wouldn't see one when analyzing CS alone.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 7:15 PM on January 7, 2015


Dashy: "anyone have recs for a better android calculator app?"

"Okay, google"
posted by pwnguin at 7:30 PM on January 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


I just read this very good article today about sexism in economics, where women are woefully underrepresented and not taken seriously, maybe even more so than tech. While pay disparity is a big thing and an important thing, fixing pay without fixing the entrenched bias and sexism that most people don't even see is just putting a band-aid on the problem. There will always be ways to hold women back in their careers even if they're starting out with the same salary. We see it all the time.

I would love to see more of a focus on how we can all advocate for women in the workplace. There were some really good suggestions on how to do this in another post a few months ago. And while this entrenched gender bias and sexism can and does come from both women and men, I believe it is especially important for men to be advocates. Not only because in a lot of industries, men are the ones who hold more power; but also because women are penalized for advocating for other women.

If there is a difference in salary that has to do with management and HR and not male coworkers. It is a management problem and not a male problem.

It's both. It's everyone. And I think salary is often just a symptom. If I'm a guy in senior management and I have a female employee who often speaks up at meetings (as all employees are encouraged to do) with some strong feelings about whatever work-related thing, she might kind of rub me the wrong way. Because she just seems so opinionated or abrasive or whatever. So when it comes to her annual review, I will probably mention it to her. And while she's a good employee overall, the impression she's left on me is going to have an impact on my overall perception of her. So when I'm considering whether or not to give a promotion to her or that go-getter guy she works alongside, that will come into play. I'll probably give the promotion to the guy, who also speaks up all the time in meetings, except he's confident and assertive, not so...I don't know...aggressive. So right there I've affected a woman's current salary and future earnings based on her gender. Even if her and the guy started out at the same pay, it's these kinds of things that can come into play and hold women back in multiple ways. And it doesn't even have to be just a woman's direct manager. Managers collaborate. If I think a woman is pushy and aggressive because she speaks up in meetings, or if other employees think it and say something to me, I might mention it to other managers and it will eventually get back to her manager who will penalize her in her performance review with vague statements about her not being a team player or some other hand-wavey thing. And that's how a woman gets branded as difficult in the workplace.

tl/dr, while salary is important, I think it's a symptom of a much deeper bias, the majority of it unconscious, that will always hold women back, regardless of pay. That's why it's so important to examine our biases.
posted by triggerfinger at 8:07 PM on January 7, 2015 [8 favorites]


Are women driven out of STEM careers via sexism from men, or are women just not interested in taking a STEM career? I never really figured that out.
...
If there is a difference in salary that has to do with management and HR and not male coworkers. It is a management problem and not a male problem.


Uhuh. Get back to us when you find a way to get rid of the sexism and all the managers being men, and we'll do a controlled study.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 8:10 PM on January 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


Orion Blastar: "Are women driven out of STEM careers via sexism from men, or are women just not interested in taking a STEM career? I never really figured that out."

I can only speak to CS, but in that component of STEM, women are not even starting out in CS. The study shows that only 1 percent of women in their data set majored in the field of "computer and information sciences" while 5 percent of men did so. Technically, the forces of sexism could shift women's preferences while in school, and the study doesn't examine this.

But I can say in my experience, the forces of campus diversity have lost the game before it even started -- women are self selecting out of STEM by senior year of high school. My high school's AP physics course was entirely guys, but at least the non-AP physics course (run a teacher having the Dudebro pokemon type) wasn't completely unbalanced, whereas the BASIC programming course was 1 woman and the C++ class was 0. Our application numbers in uni back this. We support Women in Engineering events and scholarships, and do high school outreach, yet with all that financial incentive and arm-twisting, 20 percent is the 20 year high water mark.

IMO one of the awkward problems we have in IT / CS is figuring out how to fix this. The geekfeminism wiki can be insightful at later stages of professional development, but geek feminists, people highly motivated to fix the problem, are fundamentally unable to answer the question we need to ask: "Why did you choose not to join the geekdom?" Especially when the answer might be "It was too geeky."
posted by pwnguin at 8:15 PM on January 7, 2015 [5 favorites]


There was an interesting argument I read that said that the causality is the other way around, it's not that women gravitate towards lower paying professions, it's that professions with women in them are deliberately underpaid. It used the example of the medical profession, where being a doctor was a highly paid profession around the world, except in Russia where it was female dominated.

I can't speak to the robustness of that argument, but it's an interesting one to consider when talking about the question of why there are more women in less lucrative majors.
posted by xdvesper at 8:48 PM on January 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


anyone have recs for a better android calculator app?

Install FDroid and search in there.
posted by clarknova at 11:56 PM on January 7, 2015


"Why did you choose not to join the geekdom?"

A Norwegian documentary miniseries attempted to answer this in 2010.
posted by clarknova at 1:10 AM on January 8, 2015


I haven't had many employers over the years, and all of those have been universities, so I don't know how reliable this anecdata is.

I am 42. Right now in my section, central IT of a mid sized institution, there are five women in highly technical roles. All are highly respected, and all are older than me. My current head of dept is a woman.

In other institutions I have met many similar women. Again, all highly respected and all older than me.

Yesterday I met the first female technical colleague I have ever had who is younger than me. She's part time and a student earning a little extra cash.

I cannot explain one solitary stitch of it.
posted by vbfg at 1:32 AM on January 8, 2015


> "I cannot explain one solitary stitch of it."

Unlike most other professions, including technical ones, the number of women studying CS has actually been declining since the mid-80's. The piece I linked to theorized that a major reason is that the heavy marketing of home computers as "things for boys" for many years afer they became available gave men who wanted to enter the field an advantage that was difficult for women to overcome.
posted by kyrademon at 1:52 AM on January 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Are women driven out of STEM careers via sexism from men, or are women just not interested in taking a STEM career? I never really figured that out.

Yeah it's not like there aren't hundreds and hundreds of articles by women saying they love STEM but didn't want to deal with the bullshit in the industry all over the Internet. Who can know what womens want it is a mystery.
posted by winna at 3:44 AM on January 8, 2015 [13 favorites]


This isn't really surprising, as most the factors that keep women's pay back don't apply here.

As others have said, starting salaries for graduates tend to be set levelly by the organisation: it's rare to make higher or lower offers for particular individuals.

There aren't really negotiations at the graduate recruitment stage: the organisation makes an offer and the graduate accepts it or rejects it. So women don't have the negotiation disadvantages where they're seen as "pushy" or "entitled" if they make demands; that they can't raise their voices or they're seen as "hysterical" rather than "passionate", etc etc.

And at this age the huge factor of the demands of parenting doesn't apply.

(Cue Conservatives and Libertarians: women just love their cuddly ickle babies so much that they choose flexible hours and career breaks over high salaries, those choices being completely free, individual and unconstrained since they live in a cultural vacuum where it totally doesn't happen that careers coded as "male" happen to involve higher pay and long hours and being available while off-duty even though the evidence is that long hours hurt overall productivity, and there aren't a host of social and legal pressures that they should be the ones responsible for children blah blah blah blah blah blah ethics in games journalism).
posted by TheophileEscargot at 4:11 AM on January 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Re: some of the mechanisms of gender bias: unconscious hiring bias. This article is about a thing being done to address it in the prestigious Canada Research Chair programs, but gives a decent background description and links for further reading.
posted by eviemath at 6:10 AM on January 8, 2015


Key point from the article:
The false perception that female programmers earn less than males ... is probably one of the factors discouraging women from joining the field.
posted by John Cohen at 11:43 PM on January 9, 2015


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