Pay Gap is real, say women but blame themselves for it

Women felt that, among other reasons, because men are more vocal about demanding a raise they are more likely to get a pay increase


In India, the pay gap in the tech industry is as much as <span class='WebRupee'>Rs.</span>3.8 lakh per year. Photo: Mint
In India, the pay gap in the tech industry is as much as Rs.3.8 lakh per year. Photo: Mint

Bengaluru: When you ask a company if there is a pay gap between men and women, they are quick to say “we are an equal opportunity employer.” So does that mean a pay-gap does not exist?

A survey conducted by Mint among 30 women showed that at least half of those said that a pay gap is very real in the tech industry. These are women technologists who were part of the Grace Hopper Conference 2015, where almost 2,300 women from 170 companies like Cisco Systems Inc., International Business Machines Corp., Microsoft Corp., Netapp Inc., Intuit Inc., Oracle Corp, Accenture Plc., General Electric Co., VMWare Inc., Flipkart Ltd, Facebook Inc. and Google Inc. took part.

“It is true there is a pay gap, and most often it is because women don’t talk about their achievements as much as the men do. We end up personalizing our relationships and once it is personalised, we find it difficult to then go to talk business strictly. Even I’m learning to negotiate better,” said Vidya Laxman, director of technology at retail chain Tesco Plc.

In India, the pay gap in the tech industry is as much as Rs.3.8 lakh per year, says Shachi Irde, executive director, Catalyst India, WRC, a non-profit organization that helps expand opportunities for women.

In fact, last year, it was at this very same forum in San Francisco that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella was widely criticised for his comment on how women should not ask for pay raises but trust in “karma” to give them the salary they deserve.

And after that, global companies like Salesforce.com Inc. said it is reviewing its salaries. According to Fortune, Marc Benioff, who co-founded and heads business software giant Salesforce said the company had spent roughly $3 million this year to adjust the salaries of its female employees to match that of their male counterparts.

But Salesforce is among the few that acknowledged that there is a problem.

Most of the problem, according to Laxman and all the women who said they saw a pay gap, is because women are not aggressive enough at the workplace.

“For instance, even if a man was only 50% fit for a role, he does not feel inhibited about talking of all the things he achieved, be it big or small,” said this director of a company that makes products for mobile communications and manages a team of over 50 people.

“On the other hand even if a woman if 75% fit for the role, she focuses on talking about the 25% she did not achieve, and ends up looking bad,” said this senior executive with 23 years of experience.

She says she sees this more at junior and mid levels, where the disparity in salary can be as much as 20%.

Moreover, women also felt that because men are more vocal about demanding a raise they are more likely to get a pay increase. And because women don’t complain, they end up seeing a lesser hike, and that’s how the disparity sets in.

“When I joined this company, along with a friend, we both had same number of years of experience, and in fact I was more qualified than he was. But he sold himself well. I didn’t. Now even after seven years, our salaries continue to be different by 50%. That normalisation just does not happen,” said this technical development manager at a software maker.

The other problem women face about being aggressive is while men are seen as eager and engaged, women are more often seen as obnoxious, said Mark Bregman, chief technical officer of NetApp.

“We studied women who worked for at least 12 years in companies and saw that women don’t grow as fast as men partly because of unconscious biases on whether they’ll be able to keep up with what the orgnizations needs of them. This in turn affects their promotions and increments and causes a disparity in salaries,” said Irde of Catalyst.

The one way companies can bring parity, according to Bhavna Sud, director of Hay group, is by ensuring the companies pay for the job and not the person. “There is a need to value the job and salary decision needs to be based on the job. Then the focus shifts from the person to the job and ensure parity.”

As early as 1953, T.J Watson Sr., founder, IBM had said “Men and women will do the same kind of work for equal pay. IBM does not discriminate based on gender and diversity is integrated into our business strategy. And we view it the same way we view innovation as essential for our business and clients,” said DP Singh, Vice President - Human Resources (India/South Asia), IBM India Private Ltd.