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Facebook, Microsoft Pay Men And Women Equally -- But There's Still A Big Problem

A pay gap is the least of their worries.
Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, is a pioneer of workplace equality.
Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, is a pioneer of workplace equality.

Facebook and Microsoft both made substantial commitments to equal pay on Monday, stating in two separate announcements that they've closed gaps between the salaries of men and women at their companies.

The timing isn't coincidental: Tuesday is Equal Pay Day, which exists to highlight the gender pay gap.

"I'm proud to share that at Facebook, men and women earn the same," Lori Goler, Facebook's head of human resources, said via status update on the social network.

Microsoft's update, written by Kathleen Hogan, the company's executive vice president for HR, was a bit more nuanced. Hogan announced that women at Microsoft earn 99.8 cents to every $1 men earn at the same level and job title. Meanwhile, minorities are said to have completely equal pay overall to Caucasian workers at Microsoft.

It's good news, but it masks a problem.

At Facebook, a pitiful 16 percent of tech jobs are held by women. Microsoft is no better, with 16.9 percent of tech positions occupied by females.

Men and women may get paid equally according to title at Microsoft and Facebook, but women are overwhelmingly less likely to hold positions at these companies. Microsoft is particularly male-dominated, with 73.1 percent of all roles held by men and 26.8 percent held by women, according to the company's own diversity numbers. Facebook is 68 percent male and 32 percent female overall.

And the numbers are substantially worse when you look at tech jobs, like engineering or product development. It is there that women are most outnumbered by male peers: At Facebook, a pitiful 16 percent of tech jobs are held by women. Microsoft is no better, with 16.9 percent of tech positions occupied by females.

Microsoft's overall diversity numbers.
Microsoft's overall diversity numbers.

The common refrain for people who don't believe gender inequality in tech is a problem is usually that women simply aren't interested in tech roles. That's nonsense on the basis that women, too, are human beings with diverse experiences and interests -- we men should not be more entitled to jobs in the tech industry simply because someone gave us a Game Boy when we were three years old while our female peers got a Barbie.

But that's exactly what happens. The bias solidifies over years and, at best, manifests in online comments about the gender divide, as you can see below. At worst, the comments are made in the workplace, in classrooms or job interviews.

Companies carry much of the burden when it comes to more diverse hires. Intel, another tech company, is showing how possible it is to successfully commit to hiring more women and minorities by overhauling an outdated job interview and referral process. For example, employees get double the referral bonus for diverse candidates. The company has also mandated that at least one woman and one underrepresented minority must be interviewed for each open position.

It should go without saying why this is a good idea: Diverse perspectives lead to better products and would probably help companies like Microsoft avoid embarrassing and offensive promotions (at the very least). Pragmatically, white men obviously aren't the only ones using products from the likes of Facebook and Microsoft -- so why are they mostly the ones making those products?

Still, the onus isn't just on these tech companies. There's a systemic problem that cuts many people off from opportunities early on, which helps ensure that only the most privileged people wind up at these tech companies or receiving computer science education at all. While companies can and should do a lot more to support diverse hires, there's a shared burden for the rest of us to urge progress along, too.

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