Tech Is a Great Place for Women, Minorities

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Because of an emphasis on work performance, the IT industry is one of the best fields for women and ethnic and racial minorities, said Scot Melland, president and CEO of, the online job board for technology, engineering and security-cleared professionals.


“Performance in your job is much more easily measured, whether you’re running a system appropriately, your programs work well or the code you write is very efficient and good,” Melland said. “I think these things are easily measured, which makes it more of a meritocracy.”


According to’s 2004 Salary Survey, out of the top five industries in which professional women’s income is closest to men’s, four are specific to IT: computer hardware, telecommunications, Internet services and computer software, in that order. Government/defense came in fifth. In fact, women earn slightly more than men in the computer hardware field. “Overall, technology is a great place to be if you’re a woman or a minority, because I think there are highly skilled, great-paying positions,” Melland said. “I think as you move up the educational and skills ladders, the gender gap decreases.”


Other findings of the salary survey include a fall in IT professionals’ income overall. According to the study, technology salaries in the United States dipped 2.6 percent from an average of $69,600 in 2003 to $67,800 in 2004. Notably, 18- to 24-year-olds saw a 13.5 percent decrease in their salary, and PC technicians’ and help desk workers’ incomes dropped between 9 percent and 10 percent. (See “IT Support Hiring May Rebound” story in this newsletter.) experts concluded that the decline was partly the result of sagging computer software and Internet services sectors.


“One of the most interesting things we’ve seen in the past 18 months in the tech labor market is that database administrators, project managers and (system administrators) are the types of jobs that have come back strong,” Melland said. “Some of the ones that we’ve seen that are on the decline, especially in 2002 and 2003 were webmasters, pure Web site developers and technical writers. If you look at the salary survey this year, one of the interesting things you can see is that the groups that were hit the hardest—in other words, their salaries declined the most—were groups that tended to have less experience and less skills.


“We were all surprised by the fact that the averages had gone down, because during the same timeframe, the number of job opportunities has definitely gone up substantially. The people that were most affected seemed to be people who are entry-level, less experienced and lower-skilled. We don’t know exactly why, but one possible reason might be the impact of offshore outsourcing. These tend to be the types of positions that are more easily outsourced.


“Salaries tend to be a lagging indicator,” he added. “What you’re seeing in the results of the survey in 2004 is really the impact of the downturn in 2002 and 2003. It’s not until additional hiring or rehiring starts to happen again that the salaries start to adjust downward. If you look at what’s already happening in some of the geographic markets like Washington D.C., Atlanta and southern California, and some of the specific industries such as defense or electronics, the salaries are already upward-bound. I’d expect that as the labor market tightens over the next year, we’ll see salaries rebound again.”


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