Can STEM and App-Based Technology Play a Critical Role in Eliminating the Gender and Race Wage Gap for Women?

04/16/2015 03:44 pm ET | Updated Jun 16, 2015

We know that an equitable and prosperous world is only possible when women have direct access to flexible and equal earning opportunities. Yet, in 2015 women in the United States make only 78 cents if you are White for every dollar earned by men, a gender wage gap of 22 percent. The effect of the gender gap is most oppressive for women of color. In the United States Latinas working full time make 56 cents and African American women earn 64 cents to every dollar earned by their male white coworkers.

We must look for radical ways to eliminate the gender pay gap. Services like Poshmark and TaskRabbit have only been around for a few years and are already proving to be powerful agents for change in the lives of women. Unlike the traditional labor market, app technologies offer a job opportunity that is not subjected to gender-based discrimination.

App-based jobs have only been around for a few years and are already proving to be powerful agent for change in the lives of women. Unlike the traditional labor market, app technologies offer a job opportunity that is not subjected to gender-based discrimination. From the application stage to the marketplace, women are treated equal to their male counterparts on these technology platforms. Can this really change things? I was present when Uber recently announced a commitment to create jobs for 1,000,000 women on their platform by 2020. And I met with women drivers from London, Naibori, Bogota and Dallas who attest that "being their own boss" gave them and their global peers the ability to have the leisure and financial rewards enjoyed by their male counterparts.

"There is no bigger equalizer for pay equity then STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering and Math) careers. Overall when given today's disparity for women pay, women can take STEM jobs and earn 92 - 96 cents on the dollar," says Edie Fraser CEO and director of "It is exciting to us that all areas in our economy are demanding technology jobs. That is true for the across private sectors in finance, food services and tech companies and when you add the government and non-profits organizations what we know is that technology is driving 75% of the jobs in America." However, women must enter the tech highway. Fraser commented that did a survey with 100 top CEOs at Fortune 500 companies asking the question of women in technology. Their response was "...women and girls are still only expressing 15% interest into going into these careers."

Jocelyn Tate, of the Black Women's Roundtable states that "There are more technology jobs than can be filled by the current pool of talent. According to estimates, 1.2 million computing jobs will be available in 2022 and U.S. universities are producing only 39% of the graduates needed to fill them."

The Million Women Mentors (MWM) initiative, which is designed to get more women and girls involved in STEM careers expect a million pledges in the next four years to not only provide mentors but sponsors and internships as well," adds Fraser. "We must go for the T [technology]!

When it comes to race there are other challenges women of color face to take advantage of future tech-based entrepreneurial and employment opportunities.

According to Tate "Black women are increasingly becoming greater consumers of technology product and are more likely than other female consumers to spend time using technology and the Internet as tools of empowerment, self-expression, work/life balance. For these reasons, the employment value and unique knowledge and perspective that Black women can bring to technology industry employment can close the wage gap if Black women and girls are given the opportunity to secure the needed education for the high-wage employment and quality job opportunities that the technology industry provides."

Susan L. Taylor, CEO and Founder of National Cares Mentoring quips "I am pleased that there are STEM and Hackathons projects targeting girls of color. To be tech savvy is the way of the future in order to increase financial stability for so many young women we engage in our program."

Emily Peck, HuffPost executive business editor recently revealed the decline of women in area of STEM and reported that the percentage of computing jobs held by women has fallen over the past 23 years. She noted from a study by the American Associations of University Women, a non-profit that promotes gender equality that only 26 percent of computing jobs in the U.S. were held by women, down from 35 percent in 1990. During that same period, the number of women earning computing degrees also declined.

On another note, Professor Dr. Linda Scott of Oxford University writes "Women are often penalized in the workplace if they try to negotiate better salaries for themselves. The social cost of trying to do so can be very high and women realize this, adjusting their ask accordingly. This is true in any field, but is more likely to be a problem in companies or industries that are more male-dominated. Thus, we could predict that there would be a bigger problem in tech, regardless of the skill set brought by an individual female. And data do show that, the higher the pay scale, the bigger the gap, suggesting again that qualification is no protection against inequality. Increasingly, research shows that salary is less a matter of having equal qualification than it is the attitude of the person on the other side of the negotiating table."

"I am doing all I can to engage women in the area of app based services and tech overall," states Naila Chowdhury, Chairman of Women4Empowerment and who worked closely with Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus and is former Director of Grameenphone and CEO of Grameen Solution LLC. "We used telecommunications to help eradicate poverty in Bangladesh. I am in the States now pushing women to become more aware of the crucial role they can play themselves in eliminating poverty and bridging the pay gap to an equal level via technology. Technology is definitely the path which will allow the difference to minimized to an acceptable level."

While we are waiting for equal pay to become a reality across the board, I encourage women and girls to be looking more at technology as an important accelerator for pay parity now. I have encouraged my own daughter not to give up sports marketing app development, Globall Alliance. App based services do have great potential to empower entrepreneurship. They also can provide a flexible work schedule so many of us women desire to have but we must get on the tech track.

Marcia L. Dyson is the CEO and Founder of Women's Global Initiative and an affiliate of Georgetown University Center for Social Justice, Research, Teaching and Service.