San Jose ranks in top 25 cities for women in tech, but the gaps remain wide

Being a woman working in tech in Silicon Valley is still not as lucrative as being a man doing the same work, but the gaps are shrinking, new data show.

A report by New York-based personal finance technology company, SmartAsset, which asks which cities are best for women in tech, looks at four factors to rank the 58 cities on the list: Gender pay gap, income after housing costs, tech jobs filled by women and tech employment growth over the past four years.

Using those factors, San Jose this year broke back into the top half of the cities analyzed.

SmartAsset has analyzed the data over the past six years, allowing for some benchmarking year-over-year. Nationally, women make up about 26 percent of the tech workforce and earn 83 percent of what men make. But the story isn’t the same everywhere.

“Though disheartening at the national level, women have had great success breaking into the tech industry in some cities,” the report notes.

Indeed, in Long Beach, women on average make 102 percent of what men make in the industry, though the city ranked 7th on SmartAsset’s report due to other factors. The top city for women in tech in the U.S. is Baltimore, followed by Washington, D.C., and Virginia's Arlington and Chesapeake.

Breaking down San Jose

San Jose in 2019 dropped out of the top half of the cities analyzed to 29th on the list. But in the 2020 rankings, the city has made strides, rising to the 25th-best city for women in tech. San Francisco meanwhile sunk, going from No. 28 to No. 33 as the pay gap between men and women widened, according to the data.

On average, women working in tech in San Jose earn just 83 percent of what men make in the industry — on par with the national average — but a woman's income after housing costs increased by more than $2,000 annually, the report shows.

Though that shows a relative improvement in the South Bay, that 83 percent pay gap is “still a big deal,” said Karen Catlin, a leadership coach, speaker, author and workplace diversity advocate who has worked with companies across Silicon Valley, including Adobe, Intel, eBay, Okta and Salesforce.

“That means that our companies are not paying attention to that pay gap,” she said. “They are not running reports, they're not identifying as new talent comes in the door, what the right pay is. It means they are doing things that, somewhere along the line, some bias gets introduced and they're paying the men more.”

Catlin also noted that the data doesn’t break down pay gaps by race, but the disparities for women of color would be greater if the report did.

Women make up about 21.5 percent of the tech sector workforce in San Jose, down from 22.7 percent last year, though the industry as a whole grew by 30 percent in the city, SmartAsset data shows.

The report comes shortly after a study out of Cornell University estimated that it will take a century for women to catch up to men in the computer science sector. That’s estimated even as women make strides toward achieving parity when it comes to education and the overall workforce, according to the Pew Research Center.

Why the gap?

The reasons for women lagging in pay and representation are multifaceted, industry leaders say.

Those factors include talent pipeline issues due to young women not choosing to study in science, technology, engineering and math, as well as language used in job applications that might dissuade females from applying. Pair that with women's tendency to discount their talents or skip applying to jobs more quickly than men, and the gaps aren’t surprising to many women in the industry.

But beyond the ways women may opt out, there may also be unconscious bias during the hiring process — an issue many in tech are working to address.

“We all have it (unconscious bias). It’s very prevalent and it’s unconscious, so people aren’t even aware that they’re making those decisions,” Judy Hamel, senior vice president general counsel and secretary at Lumentum Holdings Inc., said during a panel on women’s equality at NASA’s Mountain View outpost last year. “But ... education and making people aware of that ... is going to start tipping the needle.”

Catlin said she’s seen all of those things play a part when it comes to the gaps between men and women in tech. But she’s also optimistic it won’t really take 100 years for the gaps to close in tech, particularly in the Bay Area, where a handful of companies have already self-reported high rates of pay equity.

“There is an acknowledgment that this is something that needs to be done for the health of the industry,” she said. “I'm also seeing every company has a head of diversity and inclusion or similar title. It's not only the big companies now, it's also mid-stage startups who are having these roles.”

Even so, any change will have to be intentional, and not just from companies, but from employees and communities, Catlin added.

“You can't just wait for the C-suite of any company to make change here,” she said. “There are things that we all can be doing to support equality at work, which includes pay equity as well as opportunity equity.”

Contact Janice Bitters at [email protected] or follow @JaniceBitters on Twitter.

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