Network Security

Women receive significantly less compensation than men in IT sector, Census Bureau

Women continue to receive significantly less compensation than men in the IT security sector, according to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau.

While the number of workers in the field increased from 450,000 in 1970 to 4.6 million in 2014, the study, "Occupations in Information Technology," found that for the IT security sector, men's earnings in 2014 were $90,670 compared to women's earnings of $75,780 

In examining workforce developments in the computer field over the last 45 years, the study grouped a number of professions into the computer occupations sector, from computer research scientists and programmers to web developers and computer support specialists. In 2014, a quarter of workers in the IT field included software developers, applications and systems software, the study found, while nearly 13 percent were classified as computer support specialists and similar percentages fell into the computer and information systems managers and computer systems analysts categories.

While the good news is that the report, citing data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, projects that jobs in computer and math occupations will spike by 18 percent between 2012 and 2022, the disparity in salaries earned between men and women stands out as a red flag.

Another key finding is that the sector continues to draw young workers, More than half of IT workers measured by the Census Bureau fall between the ages of 25 and 44. Web developers were among the youngest with 38 percent between ages 25 and 34, and 11 percent between ages 16 to 24. Workers over age 55 handle the more established IT occupations: computer and information research scientists, computer systems analysts and computer programmers.

Perhaps more alarming than the salary disparity, looking at statistics over the past 40 years, the study noted that the presence of women in the IT sector has lagged that of women in all occupations. And, while the proportion of women in all occupations has slowly increased over time, from 38 percent in 1970 to 47 percent in 2014, the proportion of women in IT occupations has actually decreased from 31 percent in 1990 (the peak) to 25 percent in 2014. 

As far as salaries, both men and women generally earned more in the IT sector than workers in other fields, and median salaries between 1970 and 2014 increased for both men and women in the field.

"However, a wage gap existed between employed men and women in a majority of the detailed IT occupations," the report stated. It illustrated its findings by pointing out a sharp disparity in wages between men and women among database administrators, where women make up a high percentage. But, it's not just in this occupation where the pay gap is significant. The disparity also extends to software developers, applications and system software, and information security analysts, the study found.

"Yes, this study is consistent with many others that have pointed out the wage gap between men and women," Chenxi Wang, chief strategy officer at Twistlock, told on Thursday. "One of the problems that we see is that often the first salary sets the bar for the person's whole career. If a woman is not as aggressive in negotiating her first salary or if she was given a lower salary to begin with, the low salary can follow her from job to job, contributing to the gender pay gap."

That is why, Wang explained, a new law in Massachusetts that bans an employer from asking prior salary is a significant step toward eliminating that gender pay gap. Employers, she added, can also take notes from efforts initiated by Marc Benioff, founder and CEO of Salesforce, in balancing wages between men and women. (Benioff spent $3 million last year to close a gender pay gap at his firm.)

"As a society and as an industry (IT security), we have much work to do in equal pay as well as equal respect," Wang said.

Joyce Brocaglia, CEO of Alta Associates and founder of the Executive Women's Forum, agreed that it is no surprise that there is a $10,000 gap in the median income of women cited in the study. "I believe specific to information security, a large part of what attributes to this gap is the disparity of women in executive roles compared to men," she told on Thursday. "Women opting out of technology roles is a tremendous problem that requires companies to invest in women earlier on in their careers with leadership development and formal sponsorship/mentorship programs that will increase their engagement, visibility, promotability and retention."

Katie Moussouris, founder and CEO of a new security start-up company, Luta Security, is not surprised either at these findings of a significant wage gap in IT security between men and women. "It is unfortunate that while we struggle to fill IT security jobs, most companies are not doing enough to both recruit and retain gender diverse talent," she told on Thursday.

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