Recently Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said something that upset a lot of women. At the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing he was asked how women should go about asking for a raise. His response was that women shouldn’t ask for a raise but trust good “karma” and know/have faith that the “system” will take care of them.
Hours later, Nadella corrected his comments saying he was wrong and that when a woman thinks she deserves a raise she should ask for it.
To my mind there are two issues here:
- The high tech culture and its impact on women’s pay
- The system that women need to trust that will correct their pay
High tech culture and its impact on women’s pay
I want set something straight. This issue can/does exist in other industries. But the high tech industry has been in the spotlight lately.
High tech has been dominated by men for years. STEM jobs have not attracted women as they have traditionally been known as “male” professions.
- While 57% of female graduates are women, only 12% are in computer science.
- Women make up half of the U.S. workforce, but hold just 25% of the jobs in technical or computing fields.
- A 2011 report by the U.S. Department of Commerce found that there has been no employment growth of women in STEM jobs since 2000.
For women who do get hired by tech companies, they enter a sexist culture.
Men aren’t shy about asking for raises. Women are. They don’t self-promote but are much more likely to believe that if you simply work hard and get great results, you’ll get noticed and promoted. But many companies penalize women when they do ask. They may be labeled as bitchy or pushy. This is largely due to preconceived notions about gender roles in the workplace.
The result: a pay gap exists on every level of STEM jobs. In Silicon Valley, men with bachelor’s degrees earn 40% more than their female educational counterparts, according to an analysis of census data from the 2014 Silicon Valley Index.
Some tech companies have been known to take advantage of this. At an Australian tech conference in September, startup founder Evan Thornley said that a perk of hiring women is that their salary is still “relatively cheap compared to what we would’ve had to pay someone less good of a different gender.”
What? Realizing that women are undervalued and then paying them less than men because you know you can isn’t a solution that any company should adopt. That’s like reading a nutritional study that say saturated fat might not be that bad for you after all and then running out and eating an entire stick of butter!
The system works --- except when it doesn’t
Why tell women to accept lower pay in the short-term for the promise of the system correcting itself later, when that same system in general has been shown to act unfairly?
- Since 2009, corporate profits in the US have increased by 84%, one of the largest five-year increases ever.
- From 1978 to 2013, CEO compensation, inflation-adjusted, increased 937%, a rise more than double stock market growth.
- From 1978 t0 2013, pay for American workers have increased by 10.2% despite record productivity.
A challenge for pay transparency
As we move towards more pay transparency this will be a big red flag that will have to be fixed. Companies need to get ahead of the curve and correct the problem. If they do, not only will engagement increase, they’ll have a competitive advantage.
The Fairness Pay Act has been struck down twice; however, some version of it will likely be passed in the future. Among other things, the first two versions held companies liable for “pay disparities” that have occurred due to a past history of pay discrimination in an employee’s career. This would include not only the current employer but past employers as well. But that will have to wait for a future post.
My point? We don’t need to wait until it becomes law. We know the problem exists --- let’s fix it.
Jacque Vilet, President of Vilet International, has over 20 years’ experience in Global Human Resources with major multinationals such as Intel, National Semiconductor and Seagate Technology. She has managed both local/ in-country national and expatriate programs and has been an expat twice during her career. Her true love is working with local national issues. Jacque has the following certifications: CCP, GPHR, HCS and SWP as well as a B.S. and M.S in Psychology and an MBA. She belongs to SHRM, Human Capital Institute and World at Work. Jacque has been a speaker in the U.S., Asia and Europe, and is a regular contributor to various HR and talent management publications.