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Women are Asking for Less as they Gain Experience, Here's Why?

When it comes to equitable compensation, particularly as it relates to gender, one important piece of the puzzle is the fact that women, on average, ask for lower salaries than men. This is often referred to as the expectation gap, and data from our 2018 State of Wage Inequality in the Workplace Report shows that it increases with age and experience, creating a significant negative impact on the gender wage gap for more experienced professionals. As companies and employees alike think about how to create a more diverse and equitable environment, addressing both the expectation and wage gaps should be a top priority—and doing this successfully starts with understanding the problem.

Early in their career, women fare best

On average, women between the ages of 20 and 25 ask for 4% less than men of the same age, and are offered just 3% less. This mirrors our data on expectation and wage gaps based on years of experience, which shows that women with 0-2 years of experience ask for and are offered 2% less, and those with 3-4 years request and receive 3% less.

This falls off quickly, with the expectation gap increasing to 8% for women between 26 and 35, and salary offers decreasing to 7-9% less than men. Women in their late 30’s are a curious case, as it appears this group again recognizes their value, asking for just 2% less than men—but ultimately being offered an average of 7% less.

Women in their early 40’s face the most dire situation, with the average female tech worker aged between 41-45 years asking for a full 12% less than their male counterparts and being offered 10% less. The situation picks up for those in their late 40’s, with an expectation gap of 6% and wage gap of 5%.

These trends are generally reflected by the data analyzing expectation and wage gaps based on years of experience, rather than age. The expectation gap falls to 9% for women with 7-8 years of experience, and 11% for 9-10 years. The wage gap for both groups is 7%. Women with 13-14 years of experience fare the worst, with a wage gap of 8% despite an expectation gap of just 6%, but things look up when they hit 15 or more years; These women ask for just 3% less and are offered an average of 4% less.

The silver lining

While it’s disheartening to see more senior women asking for—and being offered—far less than men with the same experience, it is a positive sign that these gaps are significantly less amongst women earlier in their careers. It’s unlikely that there’s a single reason for this smaller gap, but contributing factors could include better access to entry-level salary data, particularly via online sources, an increase in the number of technical female graduates entering parallel careers tracks to their male colleagues, and heightened awareness of wage gaps in tech.

As women advance in their careers, it’s possible that less salary data is publicly available, making it more difficult for men and women alike to evaluate their worth on the open market—and thus more reliant on their own ability to negotiate for higher compensation. In addition, women who start off on a parallel track to their male counterparts, but do not progress as quickly up the career ladder (for any variety of reasons), may ask for and receive lower salaries later on in their careers when they are no longer in equivalent positions to males with similar amounts of experience. Still further, women in their 30’s and 40’s may be more likely to value non-cash benefits that benefit their families (such as maternity leave or the option to work from home), and choose companies that offer better holistic compensation packages rather than simply the highest dollar amount.

Advocating for equitable treatment

Regardless of your age or experience level, you—as a job candidate—can help to keep companies consistent and contribute to a more equitable overall tech ecosystem. By holding companies accountable, you not only position yourself to receive fair pay, but also give the company a chance to rise to the occasion. As you interview for new roles, make sure you don’t lead with sharing your previous salary, and consider asking about the company’s compensation philosophy and whether they publish their internal wage gap stats.

In addition, understanding the potential for career progression with the company—and how salary growth mirrors this—is an important part of evaluating whether the role can help you stay competitive from a salary perspective. Even if the initial salary offer is not exactly what you expected, it’s crucial that you’ll be able to grow (both in terms of role and salary) within the company, which will put you in a better position when you make your next move.

Lastly, remember to calibrate for more than just salary as you’re negotiating with potential employers. Particularly as you progress in your career, additional factors beyond the cash compensation offer may become more valuable to you, and these could be helpful leverage as you advocate for fair treatment. Those in more senior roles, for example, may be offered significant amounts of stock compensation, and while some companies won’t budge on their salary offer, you may be able to argue for a better overall compensation package by being flexible in your cash requirements.

So how do you make sure you’re positioned to land the salary you deserve? Our Salary Negotiation Guide has everything you need.