By Raizel Harjosubroto
According to a Jan. 2019 report out of Ryerson’s Brookfield Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, there is a pay gap of nearly $20,000 between male and female tech workers.
The report, completed by researchers Viet Vu, Creig Lamb and Asher Zafar, found that women’s salaries average to about $75,000 per year, while men’s average at $95,100 per year.
The report defines tech workers “as individuals that either produce or make extensive use of technology, regardless of industry,” including both digital and high-tech occupations like software developers, engineers and scientists.
Vu, an economist at the Brookfield Institute, emphasizes that Canadian tech workers, in general, get paid more than non-tech workers. But the numbers of the pay gap surprised him. While he knew the pay gap existed across all industries, not just tech, he did not know it was to this extent.
Vu and his team encountered their first challenge when retrieving the data for the report from Statistics Canada. They realized that the census did not track the gender of Canadian workers. Instead, Stats Can just tracked their sex.
“Part of what underpins this [pay gap] are really deep, culturally embedded values and behaviours”
“[Stats Can] only tracks someone’s sex assigned at birth,” Vu said. “We asked ourselves, ‘OK, are we doing justice by using sex as a source of data rather than gender?’…[we need to] improve our understanding and collecting of data surrounding gender issues.”
Vu and his team also struggled with the fact that three men were analyzing the data and writing the report. “We made sure to include women experts on this issue in every step of the way.”
Vu emphasizes that men have a crucial role to remedy the pay gap between their female counterparts. He noted that they must work together in empowering women and creating a safe space for them in tech industries, especially when the cultural barriers are a reality for many women.
Combating societal barriers
Complex strategies and initiatives are needed in order to combat these differences, said Dr. Wendy Cukier. The Ted Rogers School of Management professor whose expertise lies in disruptive technologies, innovation processes and diversity said that these issues are not just surface-level—they are deeply rooted in our society.
“Part of what underpins this [pay gap] are really deep, culturally embedded values and behaviours,” Cukier said. “You need equally complex strategies to counter these. It’s not like there’s one thing that will fix it.”
Cukier said that the roots of these values may be why women are also less likely to negotiate their salary than men are. “As a result, their lifetime earnings are going to be lower than men. When women do try to negotiate in exactly the same way that a man would negotiate, instead of being assertive and confident, they are viewed as pushy, demanding and shrill.”
In addition, men are more likely to be coached and mentored in their careers than women. She said that having someone that helps you navigate the culture is a huge advantage.
The importance of allyship
Lauren Marsillo, a fourth-year computer science student, said men in privileged positions should be acting as better allies. Marsillo was not surprised to see the pay gap between women and men tech workers in the report.
Although Marsillo said there have been many efforts to being more inclusive and accepting “in terms of pride, women and those in marginalized communities,” she felt that student groups like Science+ are necessary in taking those steps, especially for marginalized students in the STEM community.
“We desperately needed a group like this just to combat those issues, to educate people who may not be malicious, necessarily, but just are a little bit ignorant and how to navigate dealing with people that [may not] look like you or speak like you,” Marsillo said.
Science+ is a student group at Ryerson that “advocates for all marginalized folks in STEM,” according to their Facebook page. They were officially ratified as a student group in 2018.
“We need to improve our understanding and collecting of data surrounding gender issues”
“Being in computer science, it’s been a male dominated program,” the Vice President of finance for Science+ said. “But it’s the reason why groups like Science+ need to exist… marginalized communities are kind of being shafted in STEM right now.”
“I think people in privileged positions need to be helping in speaking out [about these problems],” she said. Marsillo adds that, for example, students should be more comfortable asking professors to speak up on these types of issues—where there is a divide between those who are privileged and those who are not.
Science+ holds meetings and gatherings for those in all communities at Ryerson. Their upcoming bystander intervention event is open to those who want to be better allies. “We hold these events to educate [everyone] on how to navigate certain situations, where they see someone being treated poorly but don’t know how to step in,” she said.
The full report is available here.