Tackling Equal Pay as a Female Tech Leader

As a female leader in a male-dominated industry, one of the biggest barriers I had to overcome personally was to know my worth.

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By Raji Arasu

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Being a parent gave me a perspective that I frequently apply to my professional life. In watching my kids grow, I realized that there are some outcomes that I can influence and some that are out of my control or not worth my energy. The swimming class that ended up in endless arguments when my son was 10 years old did not carry any meaning as I was dropping him off at college. Within my own career, I've leveraged that same perspective to focus on areas where I can have the biggest impact on the company -- engaging in areas that matter, and letting go of those that don't. One area that I realized I can influence, however, is the importance of fighting for pay equity, especially as a female leader in the technology industry.

Related: In the Era of #MeToo, Telling Women to 'Lean In' Does More Harm Than Good

Fifty-six percent of the professional workforce in the U.S. are women, yet only 26 percent of professional computing occupations are held by women, according to the National Center for Women & Information Technology. And technical women are more likely to report that men and women were not treated equally and fairly at work. Recent Glassdoor research suggests that the average female programmer, for example, makes 30 percent less than her male counterpart. When you combine the long-term impact of a pay gap with the fact that women typically live longer than men and retire with less money, this problem can severely hamper a woman's ability to prosper in her life.

How to address your pay

As a female leader in a male-dominated industry, one of the biggest barriers I had to overcome personally was to know my worth, and ensure that I was compensated for the value that I add to the company. As I was rising the ranks in my career, I learned over time to celebrate my accomplishments, feel confident in the value I add to a company, and build a network internally and externally where I can have frank discussions about my career, compensation package included.

Now, technology is finding ways to foster those conversations more naturally. Thanks to transparency apps like Glassdoor and LinkedIn, employees have greater visibility into average pay and compensation packages compared to their peers, feedback into companies' cultures and more. All of these are valuable tools to help give insight and data, and give permission to talk about money more openly with their peers to identify pay disparities.

This additional data and transparency also helps women have more frank conversations with their current employers. More companies are discussing their points of view on equal pay and supporting a diverse culture, which is important to understand and ensure it aligns to your personal values.

Related: How I Navigate Silicon Valley as a Female Entrepreneur

Once you have the data to inform and compare your compensation package against, you can negotiate with your manager or potential employer for equal pay. Oftentimes, I see women shy away from negotiating their salary for fear of seeming difficult or because they feel impostor syndrome and not worthy of the same compensation as their peers.

Instead of making your negotiation about pay subjective, use the data you found as an objective proof point in your argument. Be firm on the issue of negotiating your pay, but soft on the people you are negotiating with. Don't make the discussion personal, but rather focus on finding a solution to this problem. While you may not always achieve your goal, having the discussion is the first step toward fighting for what you are worth.

How others are addressing it

The good news is that women are getting more support for this discussion. More regulations are coming into effect that help hold organizations accountable to equal pay. And more organizations are holding themselves accountable to do right by their employees.

Related: Rise to the Next Pay Level With These Negotiation Strategies

This past year, for example, California created a state-wide ban on employers asking candidates their salary history. This was in addition to the 2016 law that prevented employers from using past salary history to justify any compensation disparity. Laws like this are huge wins against fighting back from institutional discrimination and pay disparity.

In addition, companies are evolving their best practices on pay analysis to ensure they are eliminating unexplainable differences in pay and communicating to employees transparently. For example, my company, Intuit, added pay equity analysis to our yearly talent and pay process.

Closing the gap

While we still have progress to make on our journey, we must continue to push for progress in this area to make a measurable impact. Creating an environment where both genders feel treated and compensated fairly helps to foster diversity in the workplace, a factor that is key to driving innovation. As I think about my journey, I realize the importance that equal pay has had in my life, and how I could influence this by having open conversations. We can all contribute to a larger mission of equal pay.

Raji Arasu

SVP, Core Platform and Services at Intuit

Raji Arasu is Intuit’s senior vice president leading the development of platform and strategic services. Arasu is an advisory board member for Code.org and CTO Forum, and on the board of directors at NIC Inc.

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