Pay disparities equal 2 months of free labor for this group of Utah tech workers

Utah’s female tech workers earn, on average, 76.2% of what their male counterparts do, a new analysis shows.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Events like Women Tech Council's SheTech Explorer Day help get girls and young women excited about careers in tech. But they might be paid less in those jobs, data suggest.

If women in Utah’s tech industry were paid what men make, they could stop working sometime in late October and take home the same paycheck for the year as they do now, according to an analysis of industry salaries nationwide.

Utah’s female tech workers earn, on average, 76.2% of what their male counterparts do, says an analysis by the internet marketing service DesignRush, which looked at industry salaries in every state.

Mapped out across the 262 workdays in this year’s calendar, the analysis concluded that women in Utah’s tech industry will work 62 days unpaid, compared to their male colleagues’ salaries.

The analysis used census data from 2022 — the most recent numbers available — to compare industry salaries nationwide and by state. Utah ranked eighth in states with the biggest tech pay gap. It adds to a growing body of research that suggests Utah is one of the more difficult states for women to work in. Utah, according to census data, has one of the country’s highest gender wage disparities for full-time employees, regardless of industry. And in tech, specifically, the disparity is nearly 10% higher than the national average.

This information isn’t surprising to tech workers like Wendy, who responded to a Tribune survey about Utah tech workers. She asked to be identified by her first name, to avoid jeopardizing a new job she fought for 10 months to find.

Wendy has been in the industry for 18 years. She said she has plenty of qualms about it, but pay equity? Don’t even get her started.

“It is such a difficult place to be,” she said. “As a senior product manager, I made about $20,000 less than men in my industry with less experience.”

She knows, she said, because she asked. She remembers telling a male colleague at an old job what she was getting paid, and he replied, appalled, “You only make that much?”

“I’m a very strongly opinionated, outspoken woman,” she said. “So it’s hard. For me, I was very vocal about it. But it’s not like it does you any good.”

Pay and representation gaps

Bree Jones — an industry leader and co-founder of two Utah software companies, Gam3r Studios and Swiss Apps I.T. — said she doesn’t believe in pay discrepancies for the same role, “period, end of story,” and would never pay anyone less because of their gender.

Nor does she know, exactly, why such a disparity might exist in her industry. she said. But she has some guesses.

A lot of the problem, she said, revolves around representation and participation. Jones said she “rarely” gets female applicants to open jobs at her company, especially technical ones.

While women made up 46% of Utah’s workforce in 2022, they accounted for just 22% of the tech workforce. Nationwide, women were more likely to have been affected by the layoffs that have swept through the tech industry in recent years, according to a report from Women Tech Council.

That same report also found women in tech are more likely to leave their leadership roles than men due to burnout, further tipping the scales of who holds the higher-paying positions — and the institutional power.

“These statistics are alarming, as the pattern of women self-selecting out of leadership roles could reverse decades of gender equality progress for women leaders in the workplace,” the report said.

The lack of women in or applying for tech jobs is not a skills issue, Jones said, but it might be a cultural one. Jones has frequently observed a phenomenon she calls “bro mode,” in which male tech leaders slip into more stereotypically masculine, or “bro-y,” behaviors and speech patterns in an effort to seem “cool and relaxed.”

While casual camaraderie is an admirable company culture, Jones said, it can become coded and exclusive. If women feel shut out of the conversation, she said, they might also feel left out of the industry at-large.

“As a woman and a minority, I have had many nuanced experiences within Silicon Slopes — both in tech and in venture capital — where men seem to have biases,” she said.

Jones said women do often bring different skills, approaches and attitudes to the table — and that’s a good thing. But Utah is “falling short” in knowing how to use those differences in “smart, effective ways,” which means it is also failing to understand their value.

“I don’t want companies to hire women or minorities or minority women just for the sake of being more diverse,” Jones said. “I want to see that hiring managers are willing to trust them to tackle problems in different ways, likely in ways that others in the company would have never considered.”

Shannon Sollitt is a Report for America corps member covering business accountability and sustainability for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here.