We asked members of Elpha, a professional network of over 75,000 women tech workers, to anonymously share their salary data and opinions on pay in 2022. Over 3,000 women participated in our survey, and over 7,000 women shared their salaries. Here are the significant trends that we uncovered.
We're publishing this report in the same month as Women's Equal Pay Day in the U.S., which in 2022 landed on March 15th. Each Equal Pay Day marks how far into the next year the average woman would need to work to earn what the average man earned in the previous year, reminding us of how far we have to go in achieving pay equity.
Still, “average woman” and “average man” can be deceptively universal terms, since they don’t account for differences and complexities in identity*. Race, in particular, has an impact on take-home pay for women. 2022 Equal Pay Day for Asian American and Pacific Islander women doesn’t come until May 3, for Black women on Sept. 21, and Latina women on Dec. 8.
Throughout this report, we’ll uncover trends when it comes to pay - such as the 87% of women who said they would value a company-wide salary transparency policy - and the practices that further contribute to these gaps - like pay secrecy and negotiation.
We hope these insights will help more companies build transparent pay policies and that with more transparency around compensation, more women will be paid equitably.
When you look at discussions in the Elpha community, it’s clear that women in tech face a shared conundrum: How do I navigate antiquated, opaque, and often unfair pay structures? We know from reports about the wage gap in the United States that women throughout industries are paid less than men. Asian women earn about 87 cents to the dollar; white women 79 cents; Black and Indigenous women an average of 63 cents; and Hispanic women 55 cents. Figures of course vary according to region and industry, but the general landscape is fairly consistent.
One way it appears that these discrepancies are maintained is through a corporate culture of pay secrecy. In most states, companies in the private sector are not required to post salaries in job descriptions, and employees are discouraged by management from sharing their salaries with colleagues and job candidates. Employees and job candidates must negotiate based on market research and by using any possible leverage, like competing job offers and high worker demand.
These practices leave room for gaps since a worker’s value is not necessarily evaluated on a universal scale, but according to prejudices and stereotypes. Federal legislation, particularly the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA), is easy for companies to circumvent in court by claiming that pay discrepancies are due to “factors other than sex.”
However, the culture is slowly changing. In Colorado, the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, signed into law in May 2019, requires employers to include salary ranges in job descriptions and follow a series of other measures designed to prevent pay disparities. Several companies have responded by refusing to consider job candidates who reside in Colorado, but adoption of similar legislation in states with enormous workforces, like New York, may force their hands.
Platforms like Elpha and Glassdoor as well as advocacy groups like Writers of Color encourage salary disclosure amongst employees and by employers. And more recently, a surge in unionization amongst workers nationwide—in the retail, media, fulfillment, tech, and food service industries—has led to open discussions about salary disparities and pushed companies to make equity more achievable at the organizational level.
But who are these changes benefiting most, and are women of historically marginalized backgrounds able to take advantage?
Elpha members come from a range of backgrounds within the tech industry, differing in career stage, department, race, and sexuality. We gathered results from 3,252 respondents, asking them questions about policies (or lack thereof) at the companies they work for, their own salaries, beliefs about pay transparency, and experiences with negotiation.
Reflecting a major shift in the culture around discussing salaries, 60-70% of respondents said they had discussed pay with coworkers.
Still, closely following the national statistics, Black, Native, and Latina women reported the lowest salaries, with multiracial women, Asian women, and White women reporting the highest salaries, in that order.
Negotiating showed to have a positive effect across all racial and ethnic groups, yet Black respondents reported negotiating the least often.
Further, 32% of Black respondents who said they did not take action upon discussing pay with their coworkers said they didn’t believe doing so would change anything.
Negotiation did not achieve equity for Black and Latina women: When Black respondents did negotiate, they achieved an average salary at the level of Asian respondents who did not negotiate. The same was true for Latina women – when they did negotiate, the outcome was up to the base salary level offered to White women.
The sexuality pay gap persists: When grouped by sexual orientation, gay women have the highest mean salary on average. This aligns with the national statistics, which show that, in the U.S., though not necessarily in other countries, gay women earn more on average than heterosexual women. This disparity can reflect social realities, stereotypes, and discriminatory practices around female sexuality and maternity.
Pay transparency is popular: The majority of respondents (87%) said they would value a company-wide salary transparency policy. Only 2% of respondents said they generally oppose transparent salary policies, and this group had higher average salaries than people in any of the other response categories.
It appears from our survey, that even in a highly competitive industry with high salaries like tech, major discrepancies can persist between women of different racial and ethnic backgrounds, and sexual identities. And negotiation, while useful in increasing salary on the individual level, won’t close the gap—even exclusively amongst women in tech.
Career coach Stephanie Ciccone-Nascimento’s clients often come to her with concerns about negotiation, and whether it could compromise their job offer to ask for more money. “I’m often reframing what negotiation really is, how to do it, and [emphasizing] that it’s a conversation,” she says. “It’s always, always worth it to negotiate.”
Still, Ciccone-Nascimento believes that there’s a bigger picture to consider. “I am a strong advocate of pay transparency. I believe that it’s not only important for the individual candidates, but also to close the wealth gap amongst certain communities.”
And for her clients who are currently job searching, she’s already seeing some change. “There are laws that have passed in New York City and Colorado where you have to put the pay in the job description, and I think that’s going to become more widely adopted—hopefully. And my clients are telling me it’s causing recruiters to just come out and say the numbers.”
For Elpha member Claire Schlessinger, pay transparency is a very personal issue. At two of her previous jobs, she found out that she was being paid significantly less than two colleagues with the same job title. “Both times I tried to fight it, and both times I was unsuccessful,” Schlessinger says. She believes retaliation for pointing out gender-based pay disparity was part of the reason for management laying her off from one of those jobs.
Schlessinger now works as a Senior Technical Product Manager at the New York Times, where there was recently a unionization effort for tech workers. “Pay transparency is a really big part of the value proposition of the union,” Schlessinger told Elpha.
Union reps started an internal database in which those interested in the unionization efforts could anonymously submit their salaries and there’s also a union Slack channel about salary. “It’s really helpful because the company doesn’t tell us what the pay bands are for our own jobs. There’s just so little information around pay within the company.”
Since our conversation, the New York Times’ tech workers won their union, making them the largest union in the country with collective bargaining rights. As a result, the company will be required to provide pay range information for different jobs. “So we would receive something akin to pay transparency, which is pretty cool.”
Schlessinger believes that the reason women and other marginalized groups may be less likely to negotiate is that there is a lot of murkiness around what constitutes an appropriate salary for a given job, and that budgets and pay ranges vary from company to company. Plus, once you find out that you’re being significantly paid less for the same work as your colleagues, there can be feelings of betrayal. “It feels really short sighted that companies are trying to do everything to solve for attrition and turn over except be transparent about salaries and pay people fairly,” Schlessinger points out.
There are nuances. Startup advisor and founder of Startup Recruiting Bootcamp Jennifer Kim believes that pay transparency is a net positive. “Hiring is supposed to be a mutual exploration process of a candidate and a company talking to each other to figure out if there’s a mutual fit, by default, for a long time, it’s been very uneven,” she explains. “The candidate is expected to [put a lot of work in] while the company barely puts any thought into their job descriptions and has done little-to-no research into compensation. Defined pay ranges allow the candidate to filter the jobs they want to apply to.”
Still, Kim believes the model for compensation is already very broken at many companies, and won’t necessarily improve with unilateral requirements to disclose salary. “When the company is lacking the discipline to figure out what their actual internal needs are, what the market is, and what candidate profiles they’re looking for, they do that research by wasting people’s time during interviews.” Candidates are expected to tell the company what the appropriate salary, expectations for the job, and possibilities for a fit may or may not be; as a result, the candidate doesn’t learn very much about the job they’re applying for and is left in a vulnerable bargaining position if they even get to the offer stage.
Kim, who is overall in favor of the trend towards pay transparency, wonders how certain startups will be able to account for flexibility needed in hiring for newly imagined positions with a requirement for strict levels and pay ranges. And what of the companies that are already struggling with building their recruitment and management foundations in the first place?
Perhaps, this is where a candidate’s market comes in handy. Could pay transparency be a signal to job searchers that a company is at least working towards accountability and equity in their hiring and review processes?
Mita Mallick, Head of Inclusion, Equity, and Impact at Carta, drew upon her own experiences of being dismissed when seeking to negotiate her job compensation package. “There is a misconception that women, and marginalized groups overall, don't negotiate when it comes to their salaries,” she says. “Earlier in my career, I was scared to negotiate when it came to my salary. Given my cultural upbringing, I was taught not to talk about money. I thought I should be happy with what I was being offered. That I should trust the organization that they were valuing me for what I was worth. Unfortunately, that's not always the case."
"Later on in my career, when I did negotiate, it was not well received," shares Mallick. Her boss had somehow found out what her husband did for work and used that information to deny her an increase, saying Mallick and her husband already made more than enough. ”I wish my story was unique and it's not. I know other women of color who have negotiated, and they have been dismissed, shut down, or belittled."
Mallick says the Carta Total Comp , a compensation recommendation engine, is designed to help companies come up with the right packages for job candidates and employees. "We take the guesswork out of salary and equity compensation. We help you build your compensation strategy using the best set of private company salary & equity data to ensure you are compensating your team fairly and competitively."
Some executives, after all, are passionate about pay transparency, and proactively implementing thoughtful policies at their companies. Nextmv CEO Carolyn Mooney says that her company not only voluntarily shares salaries with job candidates, but makes pay bands the same across levels for different disciplines. So, a level 2 sales employee makes the same as a level 2 software engineer.
“As a female engineer I felt I never had perspective on what was appropriate to negotiate for, or where I should be,” Mooney explains. “When we started Nextmv, we felt it was important to give people an understanding of where they were. So that’s why pay transparency came up initially.”
And even with the equity-focused measures, there is room for adjustment. If job candidates want to challenge the pay for the level they’re being considered for, Nextmv will assess and then—if HR and management agree—either consider the candidate for a higher level or make an adjustment to the pay at that level not just for the candidate, but for employees, too. That way, no one has to worry that someone has been hired to do equivalent work as them while being paid more.
“We also just felt like it was the right thing to do in the startup world. We do pay transparency and equity transparency since, frequently, you don’t know what’s going to happen with a company.” Job candidates who receive an offer can decide between different combinations of base salary and equity depending on their personal preferences and sense of risk.
As a company grows, the commitment to transparent and thoughtful hiring processes can open the door to a more diverse workforce and improved relationships between managers and employees. “I think it’s basically a cop out to say you can’t [implement pay transparency],” Mooney says. “It takes willingness to talk about salary openly and, in being so open as an exec team, you should expect to have people come and talk to you about why the salaries are what they are or how to get to the next level. But all of that is healthy—people should be asking how to get to the next level and what’s expected of them.”
Elpha members are part of a self-selecting online community of women who are interested in career development. As such, the survey may overrepresent women who are more likely to talk about salary and seek out better jobs and pay. Still, the survey responses reflect inequities that we already know are at work for women in the workplace.
Even when provided with information about their colleagues’ pay, many Black women respondents didn’t feel that equity was achievable at their companies. Perhaps, the survey questions were too individualized. Additionally, the onus may already feel like it is on individual workers to risk their jobs to make change. Without a collective effort towards pay equity, those at the greatest disadvantage are often left with the burden.
Late last year, California’s civil rights legislator opened an investigation into how Black women workers are treated at Alphabet Inc. These workers’ complaints of discrimination and harassment at Google’s parent company do not necessarily circulate around pay, but they do highlight the various ways in which workers from marginalized groups can be individually and systematically undervalued at companies. These alleged dynamics have reportedly led to a major exodus of Black and Native workers at Google. It seems that rather than try to stick around and change the system from within, workers from marginalized groups are moving on to companies that they feel will value their labor, hear their criticisms, and treat them equally to their peers.
When it comes to the issue of pay transparency and the gender pay gap, change must occur beyond the individual level. Employees will have to band together to advocate for improvements at their companies, and companies will have to shift their priorities not only by recruiting diverse groups of workers, but also by making their hiring, review, and promotion processes equitable and transparent when it comes to pay.
Alongside improved equal pay legislation and worker unionization, there are already some tech companies—including Shelf Engine, Brave Care, Nextmv, and several more that post open positions on Elpha–who enact pay transparency policies. In their job descriptions, these companies disclose salary, benefits, and steps of the hiring process.
Hopefully, in combination with new and better laws, more companies will adopt these practices, a move towards retaining diverse and productive workforces and reducing entrenched wealth and income inequality. Perhaps, too, these changes can spark deeper shifts in company hiring and performance review processes that lead to greater worker satisfaction and retention. In the meantime, worker unions, whistleblowers, and equal pay advocates are fighting for these changes at the grassroots level.
If you’d like to support equitable compensation for everyone, one of the best things you can do is share your salary. This is particularly important for those in positions of privilege and power, who take on the least personal risk by creating a culture of transparency.
So if that’s you, and you would like to support women at work #showusthemoney and share your salary anonymously in the Elpha Salary Database.
Alphabet Workers Union, information about and resources for organizing at Alphabet, Inc.
Black Girls in Tech, a global community for and by Black women in tech.
Campaign to Organize Digital Employees (CODE-CWA), online resources for the Communications Workers of America’s campaign to organize tech, game, and digital workers in the US and Canada.
Code like a girl, an online space celebrating women in technology.
Compa.as, a company providing pay-equity focused tools and insights for enterprise companies and employee statements for improved pay transparency.
Elpha, our high-caliber network of 75K+ women navigating our careers together.
Frauvis by Naya Moss, a newsletter elevating & empowering Black women in tech.
Institute for Women’s Policy Research, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization engaging in research and dissemination to shape public policy and improve the lives of women from diverse backgrounds.
Kickstarter United, information about the first major US tech company union.
LinkedIn’s Working Together, a weekly newsletter on professional women & equity in the workplace from LinkedIn News
National Women’s Law Center, a nonprofit organization fighting for gender justice, using the law to make changes at the legal, policy, and cultural levels.
NYTimes Tech Guild, information about and resources for organizing at the Times within the tech workforce.
Tech Workers’ Coalition, online resources from a coalition or workers organizing to build worker power globally through rank-and-file self organization and education.
Will & Way, a newsletter funneling creative and tech job opportunities and resources to women of color, by Nikki M. Carter.
Switch, a company focused on gender, diversity and inclusion in the tech and startup spaces.
Women Employed, a nonprofit organization pursuing equity for women in the workforce through policy change, expanding access to educational opportunities, and advocating for fair and inclusive workplaces.
The data used in this report were obtained and aggregated from the survey responses of 3,252 female Elpha members. Self-identified men were excluded from analysis; however, a range of distinct gender identities were represented in the study, including data from 176 respondents who either did not associate with one of the specified gender identities or preferred not to reveal their gender identities, categorized respectively as Other or NR. Participants provided self-reported responses to a range of questions about compensation, employment, geographical location, history of negotiation, preferences on transparency policies, and demographic descriptors, including race, gender, and sexual orientation. Responses were anonymized using an index of unique identifiers.
Descriptive statistics were compiled comparing average salaries among multiple subgroups of interest. Numeric values greater than 3 standard deviations above or below the population mean were considered outliers and were excluded from calculations. An additional minimum valueof $10,000 was set as the threshold for inclusion in analyses of annual self-reported salary. Racial and ethnic classifications were aggregated based on respondents’ self-identification as American Indian or Alaska Native, Black or African American, Latina, Asian, White, or Other, with the additional Multiracial classification encompassing respondents identifying with more than one racial association. The category of Other refers to respondents with a racial association not specifically named in this survey. Data from the American Indian and Alaska Native group could not be included in some comparisons due to an insufficient number of responses.
Elpha is the professional community dedicated to helping women succeed at work. We have 100,000+ members that come to Elpha for daily conversations with experts, insider opportunities, advice, support and a lot of women having candid conversations and making friends. You can learn more about the Elpha team here and read more about what we’re about as a community here. If you’d like to join Elpha, you can do so here.
The Elpha team would like to give a big thank you to Cassie da Costa for writing our report and Kiriana Cowansage for analyzing our survey data.