The Gender Pay Gap In The ICT Industry And Barriers Women Face

By Emma Crameri Emma Crameri has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
on 9 August 2023

Within the technology industry, the gender pay gap has a significant impact on the lives of women and their families. This article discusses some of the latest research and findings regarding this important topic. 

A recent poll by Women in Tech on Linkedin asked their followers: “What do you think is the biggest challenge facing women in the tech industry? The most popular answer was unequal pay and opportunities, closely followed by bias and discrimination. 

biggest challenges facing women in tech
Image Credit: LinkedIn

Another poll by recruiter Hays on LinkedIn asked their followers a simple question: “What do you feel would help support gender equality in the technology industry?” The most popular answer was pay equity and transparency, followed by flexible work arrangements.

Image Credit: LinkedIn

On reading the comments there was a mixed bag from people who didn’t believe in equality, denied there was any issue, and thought that it was just a matter of treating everyone with respect. 

Sadly, there was a lack of understanding about the gender pay gap, especially the concept of unconscious bias. 

“Many women who do decide to pursue a career in the [ICT] sector often find themselves guided towards client-facing roles thanks to the myth that women have better soft skills. A lack of flexible working can also become a barrier to many women who have family commitments,” said Adam Shapley, Managing Director, Hays New Zealand and Hays IT Australia & New Zealand

Equal Pay vs Gender Gap

Equal pay is the principle that men and women performing the same work (and job tasks) should be paid the same. 

The gender pay gap is about women bringing home less money each day compared to men (approximately 14 per cent less). This may be due to a number of factors: 

  • Women tend to work in industries with lower average wages, including aged and child care. While men tend to occupy management roles. 
  • Women are twice as likely as men to work part-time due to caring and home responsibilities. Women are still often viewed as the primary caregivers.
  • The ‘blame women’ camp believes that women have a greater hesitancy to ask for a pay rise, negotiate their starting salary or go for promotional opportunities
  • While the ‘blame culture’ camp – believes this is due to a lack of flexible working arrangements and the old boy’s club networks
  • Gender stereotypes, sexism, and discrimination 

The Gender Pay Gap doesn’t just exist within companies that have over 100 employers. If you are the only person doing that particular specialist job, then employers can continue to get away with paying less because they can argue that there is no one to compare your salary against. However, your position should be paid in a similar pay bracket to others doing the same role in your city.

The PEW Research Center found that there are sizeable pay gaps among STEM workers by gender, race, and ethnicity. 

The PEW Research Center found that across all racial and ethnic groups, women in STEM earn less than their male counterparts. 

The authors of ‘The Simple Truth About the Gender Pay Gap’ stated, “Eliminating the gender pay gap by increasing women’s pay to match that of men of the same age and education level would cut the poverty rate for all working women in half, regardless of their family structure. Closing the gender pay gap would also provide a boost to the economy.” 

As women advance through their careers, this gender pay gap persists. This means women need to work years longer to catch up with men’s earnings, and often their superannuation suffers. 

Barriers to ICT Career Progress for Women

Substantial research demonstrates that implicit and explicit biases discourage women from entering STEM careers, or influence their decision to leave as part of the leaking pipe analogy. These biases may be amplified for women of colour, women with disabilities,  or anyone who identifies as LGBTQIA.

There are a number of barriers women face when pursuing an ICT career: 

  • Biases in recruitment processes
  • Motherhood penalties and obstacles to accommodating family needs
  • Internal opportunities and rewards, including access to mentors
  • Work expectations 
  • External opportunities and rewards, such as lower frequency of speaking invitations, unequal access to external funds, less likely to be on editorial boards and in editor positions
  • Harassment and assault

female cash
Photo by Alexander Mils on Unsplash

Talking about Your Pay

A Software Engineering Director admitted that when he started his job he was surprised to discover a large discrepancy in the pay rates of his software engineers. One of the oldest, most experienced engineers was on a significantly lower pay rate than some of his younger peers. Another underpaid software engineer was softly spoken and he was very shy. He was incredibly talented and had earned a Ph.D. Both men were immediately offered a pay rise. 

I had a strange conversation with one of my coworkers about my pay rate. We were both Online Content Producers, so I believed we were being paid the same – a standard rate. We had comparable work experience and were similar ages. I told her what I was being paid and got no reply – I was none the wiser whether she was being paid more or less than me.  

While working as a phone polling officer, our recruiters told us we were not allowed to discuss our pay rates. I thought this was really odd, as we all had the exact same training and were doing the exact same job. Employees were sourced from three different recruitment companies. There was no reason for us not to be paid equally. But clearly, we were on different pay rates.

One way employers can hide unfair pay rates is by classifying technology positions as Administration Officer roles. As a result, these jobs do not appear in government statistics, nor do they need to be classified under the ICT industry Award Rates.

Employees need to know that pay secrecy has been abolished. In Australia, you can openly talk about your pay rate and your employment terms and conditions without any penalties or threats.

Gender Pay Gap Research

A recent Pew Research study shared that the median earnings of women in STEM occupations (US$66,200) are about 74% of men’s median earnings in STEM (US$90,000). Additionally, there is a gender pay gap among workers in each racial and ethnic group, resulting in the highest earnings for the typical Asian man in a STEM job and the lowest earnings for the typical Black and Hispanic women working in STEM jobs.

It is important for companies to annually collate and report data on race and ethnicity pay disparities and publish their results publicly. 

Interesting findings: 

  • Women remain underrepresented in areas of STEM including physical sciences, computing and engineering.
  • In America, White and Asian students remain overrepresented among STEM college graduates compared with their share of all college graduates. 
  • In 2018, women earned 53% of STEM college degrees, however, this is just 22% in engineering and 19% in computer science
  • Women account for 25% of those working in computer occupations.

Case Study: Creator and Influence Pay Gap

Many content creators have talked about the lack of standard pay rates and exploitation in the influencer industry. There is a common concern about continuing to work for free products with no or little payment. The main concern is that content creation is not a viable business model in the long term. 

To raise awareness, Adesuwa Ajayi established an Instagram account, ‘Influencer Pay Gap’ that allows influencers to post what they are paid and how they are treated. Similar websites attempt to address this issue include ‘Brands Behaving Badly’ and ‘We Don’t Work For Free’, and ‘F**k You Pay Me’. 

Gender Pay Gap Solutions

There are a number of factors needed to help close the gender pay gap in the ICT industry. 

  • All employees need to be empowered with effective salary negotiation skills and mentorship opportunities 
  • All employees need flexible working arrangements and hours and work-from-home options
  • Employers need to change their culture to allow for open pay discussions and conduct unconscious bias training
  • Employers need to conduct pay audits and make all salary positions public
  • Employers need policies and training that support career advancement.
  • Governments need to adopt effective and enforceable pay equity laws
  • Pay secrecy needs to be abolished – where employees are prohibited or discouraged from discussing their wage or salary information, usually by managers. 
  • Banning the use of prior salary history, as it only perpetuates the gender pay gap
  • Use market research to determine what the position is worth to the organization.

You can look up average salary rates in the Salary Guide on Talent International’s website.

You might like to take a course in salary negotiation. AAUW’s ‘Work Smart Online’ will give you the confidence and skills to successfully negotiate your salary and benefits. You can learn how to negotiate for fair and equal pay by heading to to register for this course.

Until more concrete moves are made, I’m sure that pay data will continue to be leaked and exposed via Twitter and other social media platforms, such as via the Gender Pay Gap Bot. 

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