As women progress forward to garner elevated positions in the tech sector nationwide, new data shows Silicon Valley has room to improve—and that it may not be going in the right direction.
New York-based personal finance company SmartAsset recently released their 2021 findings on the best U.S. cities for women in tech. For this year’s study—the seventh year running—the company assessed 63 cities nationwide with at least 200,000 residents and ranked them based on gender pay gap in the industry, income after housing, the percentage of women in tech and the growth in tech employment over three years.
When all of that was tallied, San Jose came in at number 30—a steep dip from 2020, when the same metrics ranked the city at 25 in the list.
This year’s SmartAsset report leans on U.S. Census information from 2019, the most recent year the data is available. That means it does not include all of the data around how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the industry. In San Jose, the study shows 22.6 percent of tech roles filled by women, but that number could have changed, as the pandemic has since pulled many women out of the workforce nationwide.
“Now more than ever is a time for companies to shift their mindsets and their hiring,” SmartAsset Public Relations Director Mark LoCastro told SJI. “Hopefully this year and in the future, things will normalize and become more even for everyone.”
The SmartAsset report—and San Jose’s ranking drop—showcases a longstanding issue for Silicon Valley LoCastro said. Though tech jobs are incredibly desirable and often pay well, women have seen systematic difficulties in securing tech jobs and are earning less than their male counterparts, he said.
“While Silicon Valley is widely considered the tech-hub of the U.S., only two California cities are in our top 15: Long Beach and Sacramento, and neither is in the Bay Area,” he said.
The annual analysis comes as advocates and tech workers increasingly and publicly call on employers in the white- and male-dominated tech industry to improve equity and equality in their workplaces. That includes gender, Sara Murdock, a senior program strategist for the Silicon Valley Leadership Group said
“Gender equity really does exist within a framework of social equity,”she said. “As women and gender nonbinary folks step into increasing leadership opportunities on a global scale, these are all individual humans with complex life histories and dreams.”
But unlike the SmartAsset report, Murdock paints an optimistic picture of the future of tech equity. In her view, change has started. Tech leaders she speaks to through her work with the Leadership Group are becoming more aware and focused on specific in-house practices, including recruitment, hiring, retention and talent development, she said.
“The region is really enjoying a moment of self-reflection,” she said. “We’re saying, ‘Technology is not only integral to our personal and our professional lives, but tech culture is actually leading the way in terms of equity.’”
Women tech workers in San Jose did fare better in at least one way: the average income after housing costs, LoCastro noted. But the pay gap continues to widen between men and women, the data show.
In the first edition of this study in 2015, women in tech in San Jose earned 86.4 percent of what their male coworkers made; in 2021, that dropped to 81 percent.
“Overall if you look at growing tech hubs … there are growing pay gaps for women in tech, despite those areas experiencing above-average tech employment growth,” LoCastro said. “Just because a sector is robust, has more hiring, and more openings for women, doesn’t mean that they’re getting paid more.”