APRIL TOP READER PICK What Equal Pay Day means for women developers and data scientists

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April 2 was observed nationally as Equal Pay Day. Originated by the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE) in 1996, this day, along with the following observation days, has been set aside to help bring awareness to the inequalities women face every day, especially in the workplace.

  • International Women's Day - Observed on March 8; started by the United Nations in 1975
  • Women's Equality Day - Observed on August 26; Designated in 1973 by the U.S. Congress

You would think that with all of these days spread out throughout the year, women would have already seen major cultural headway in terms of equal pay. However there are some staggering stats:

  • Bureau of Labor statistics show that only 57.5 percent of the American workforce are female.
  • Within the data and analytics sector, less than 17 percent of all roles are filled by women.
  • The State of the Gender Pay Gap in 2019 reports that just 3 percent of women become executives, compared to 8 percent of men.
  • The same report found that women’s earnings amount to 79 cents for every male-earned dollar—a single penny of improvement from 2018.

Additionally, earlier last month, Tanya S. Chutkan, a U.S. district judge for the District of Columbia, ruled that the Trump administration violated the law when it halted the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s efforts to collect pay data by race and gender from large companies.

This is why it is important more than ever to drive awareness about the inequalities that women are continuing to face, including in the software development and data science sectors. I’ve reached out to hear what other women in the tech, software and data science fields have to say about the importance of Equal Pay Day and what companies can do to advocate against the wage gap:

Jessica Kunkel, data analyst at Amify:
"Even in today's modern world, especially in the tech industry where women tend to be under represented, we still face the issue of unequal pay between men and women. We, as organizations, have the responsibility to live by policies that empower strong women to own their careers and know their worth."

Gabrielle Hempel, security analyst at Accenture:
“I am lucky to work for a company that values diversity and equal opportunity, but that hasn't always been the case. Being a woman in a 'man's' field--whether automotive, scientific, or technology--has been an uphill battle. I've had to fight and prove myself to be compensated equal to my male peers in the past.”

Angie Marable, lead data engineer at CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield:
“On an individual level, I like using Equal Pay Day as a reminder to look around me for women in my social circles or professional networks who may need a little extra encouragement to evaluate their work and their compensation. It's okay to ask for more, and sometimes all we need is to hear someone else say it!

"Especially, as a woman in STEM, one of the best things for my career was to find both female and male mentors in my field who were in positions I could see myself aspiring to one day. It helped having them and their experiences as reference for what I was working towards in compensation, as well as giving me the confidence boost I needed to approach my first raise negotiation many years ago. Equal Pay Day is a great reminder to pay it forward (hah!), and be that same point of reference and motivation specifically for the women coming after me.”

Sally Strebel, co-founder and COO at Pagely:
"Equal Pay Day means that merit remains greater than gender. In a polarized world, Equal Pay Day proves worthy because it unites all people. To understand if your organization provides equal pay, gather at least payroll, department, title, experience, and education data and look for inequalities. Also, if a female undercuts her financial best interest during an interview, have respect for the core of the company and pay her equivalent wages."

Nancy Wang, CEO and founder of Advancing Women In Product & senior manager of product management at AWS:
“Equal Pay Day is a big step towards an unbiased work culture, because people often equate pay as a validation of their appreciation by their company. In order to establish fair wage standards, many companies (such as Salesforce) have implemented company-wide salary surveys that aim to gather as many data points as possible for workers across levels, roles, and job categories. This helps to establish a benchmark for pay that is gender-blind, but the hard part of this will be enforcement.

"Even if companies realize that certain roles need to be paid a certain amount, the challenge comes down to how we can enforce equal pay. This can come in the form of educational seminars, blind spot checks, and continuous audits of payroll.”

Deepti Dixit, technical software architect at CodeLathe:
"The time has come when society as a whole starts accepting that women can be excellent leaders when provided with adequate mentoring and support. Familial responsibilities can offset women for a brief period, but careers and their contribution to an organization need to be seen as a marathon and not a sprint! It is quite ironic that someone who is capable of managing a plethora of responsibilities still needs to fight for her rights in the form of Equal Payday and other women-centric days."

Joi Smith, director of people and culture at Amify:
"I am encouraged by the progress the industry is making generally in terms of equal pay. I am also encouraged by local laws prohibiting past salary inquiries during recruitment. That certainly helps to level the playing field in general, and even more so in the tech space where women tend to be underrepresented. We follow that protocol and definitely understand the value. It is important that organizations have policies in place that empower strong women to own their careers and know their worth."

Swati Kumar, growth lead at Hugo:
"The wage gap is often a symptom of a cultural gap in individual companies as well as the workforce. To achieve equal pay, companies must first succeed in creating a work culture that supports women the way it has always supported men. This could be acts as simple as ensuring that women (who would otherwise need to leave the workforce upon having children) have access to video conferencing, chat, and other collaboration tools that make it possible for women to be as present at work as possible without sacrificing their presence at home."

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