Illustration: Harry Campbell
The gap between the average salary offered to black tech professionals and what’s offered to white tech professionals is closing at a snail’s pace. According to an analysis by the job search firm Hired, in 2019 black tech professionals were offered an average of US $10,000 a year less than white tech workers. That’s slightly better than the 2018 gap of $11,000, but not much better.
Meanwhile, Hispanic tech professionals lag $3,000 behind their white counterparts, down from $7,000 in 2019. Asian tech professionals, having pulled ahead in recent years, continue to command a slight edge in average salaries over their white colleagues.
Within each racial group, tech professionals who identified themselves as female received lower average salary offers than their male counterparts, according to Hired’s 2020 State of Wage Inequality in the Workplace Report, released earlier this year.
One promising takeaway from Hired’s 2020 State of Salaries Report was that tech salaries grew in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom in 2019, with the U.S. average up to $146,000 (an 8 percent increase over 2018) and the average of all three regions up to $130,000 (a less than 1 percent increase).
Or at least the trend would have been promising, had things not changed so much between the close of 2019 and today. Under normal conditions, the information contained in Hired’s salaries report would be seen as a trend line that would progress into the upcoming year. But what it means right now, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, is anyone’s guess.
“Tech headquarters are closed, work from home is the new normal, Amazon and Netflix usage is soaring, well-known tech unicorns like Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb are laying off thousands,” the Hired report states.
Meanwhile, Facebook is looking to adjust salaries up or down based on the cost of living in exchange for the freedom to work remotely. Whether the new normal will ever return to the old normal remains unclear.
Still, it’s worth looking at the gains made in 2019, because we’ll certainly be referring to these numbers as we monitor the engineering jobs marketplace during and after the pandemic.
According to Hired’s analysis, tech workers in Austin and Toronto saw the biggest increase in salary offers, both up 10 percent over 2018.
Still, in terms of raw numbers, average tech salaries in the San Francisco Bay Area remained on top, averaging $155,000 (up 7 percent) in 2019. When salaries are adjusted for the cost of living, though, many regions are well ahead of the San Francisco Bay Area: Austin’s $137,000 annual 2019 salary, for example, is equivalent to a salary of $224,000 in the Bay Area. But recent announcements by large tech companies about adjusting salaries based on the cost of living when their employees relocate may change that picture over the next 12 months.
Tekla S. Perry is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., she's been covering the people, companies, and technology that make Silicon Valley a special place for more than 40 years. An IEEE member, she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Michigan State University.