Tim Cannon is the vice president of product management at HealthITJobs.com, a free job search resource that provides health IT professionals access to more than 1,000 industry health IT jobs at home or on the go.
We know there are more men than women in tech careers, and we know there’s a wage gap. But a recent report conducted by Comparably found something interesting — as professionals age, the gender gap decreases.
While there is a 29 percent difference in salaries between men and women entering the tech field between the ages of 18 and 25, by the time professionals are over 50 years old, men earn just 5 percent more than women.
This makes sense considering that a survey conducted by my company, HealthITJobs.com, found that, in health IT, salaries significantly increase with more experience. But that doesn’t explain why there’s such a large gap to begin with.
The problem starts when professionals enter the field, and that means factors as early in the process as job posts can influence this trend. That’s right — job posts can launch and perpetuate the wage gap in tech. Here’s how.
Asking for salary history
There’s a long tradition in which employers ask candidates in job posts and applications for salary requirements or for their salary history. The practice is so common, most professionals don’t give the question a second thought. But asking for salary history in a job post can actually perpetuate the wage gap.
That’s why Massachusetts signed a new equal pay act into law that prohibits employers from asking job candidates about salary history in application materials and the interview. The reasoning behind the act is that when compensation is based on past numbers, it only perpetuates past disparities, especially because women typically earn less than men in their first job.
In addition, people tend to make judgments and assumptions about a candidate’s value based on what they earned in a previous position, whether they mean to or not. In tech, this can lead to making offers based on salary history, not skills, thus widening the wage gap. Women start behind and spend their careers just trying to catch up.
Keeping salary information secret
While employers typically ask candidates to provide salary information, many don’t provide them with any information about compensation for the job or how it’s determined within the organization. And without that critical information, women may not feel comfortable negotiating for a higher starting salary.
As it is, women are less comfortable asking for raises than men, a survey of 1,100 Americans conducted by Fractl found. Overall, women were less likely to have asked for a raise than men, with African-American women being the least likely to ask for a raise.
While asking for a raise is a little different from negotiating pay, they require similar skill sets and confidence. And when women new to a profession are navigating an employment offer, they may be even less inclined to rock the boat by asking for a higher starting rate — especially when they don’t have the information they need to do so.
Without knowing a salary range for the position, typical starting rates at the organization or some insights on how salary is determined, women don’t know what fair rate to request.
Using gendered keywords
While most people don’t realize it, most job posts are geared toward men. That’s because most use masculine keywords, an analysis conducted by ZipRecruiter found. Among job posts on their site that were reviewed, 70 percent used masculine words like assertive, decisive and dominant. And for tech jobs, 92 percent used masculine words.
While these words seem innocent enough, job ads that used gender-neutral words received 42 percent more responses. This suggests that women are less likely to apply to positions when job posts include masculine words. So women may never even apply for competitive jobs with higher paying tech employers for the simple fact that the words used in the job post don’t appeal to them.
Although recruiters and employers don’t intentionally write job posts to create a wage gap, the way they’ve traditionally been written does just that. But the good news is that updating how job posts are written isn’t a major change. It will take some time upfront to determine how much salary information to disclose to applicants and the best gender-neutral keywords to use. But these are small changes that can have a huge impact on the wage gap in the tech industry.