A deep understanding of gender imbalance in Tech careers in Brazil

Barbara Decares
Nov 19, 2018 · 5 min read

The gender gap in the Tech field isn’t a new topic. Even though I always knew that we, women, are underrepresented in this area, I felt the need to educate myself with real numbers instead of just assumptions. I am originally from Brazil, and I’ve always had the feeling that the gender and salary gaps were even bigger there than in other developed countries.

Let me start telling you a little bit about how our educational system works and the moment when I realized the gravity of this situation. In Brazil, before you start going to college, you have to apply for a specific major (undeclared is not a thing!) and stick with it until the end. We already start with specific classes related to the chosen major (very few basic subjects as business, English, etc). If you ever change your mind, you’d have to apply again and maybe with some luck, validate a couple subjects in common. Which can be hard, due to different schools’ curriculum and the lack of basic subjects. If the new field is completely different than the previous one, most likely you’d have to start from the very beginning. Once you think you know what to study, and finally start school, you’re going to have the same classmates in every single subject, all of them graduating with the same major as you.

On my very first day, the person directing the new students group assumed I was looking for the Events management class, because I’m a girl. That was only the first time that I heard “Oh, wow, you don’t look like you study computers”. After this little confusion, I finally found my class and noticed that out of 40 students of System Analysis and Development, only three were girls. I mean, boys are great. I like boys. But why is there such a big difference of numbers?

“We’re raising our girls to be perfect, and we’re raising our boys to be brave” — Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code.

When I started looking for data driven information about women’s underrepresentation in tech, I found an amazing article by Revelo a tech recruitment company based in Brazil. Unfortunately this article is only available in Portuguese, but I’ll do my best translating some of their highlights. Since they have access to all the candidates, companies and jobs details, they were able to compare all kinds of information, such as salaries, recruiters gender, salary expectations and others interesting numbers.

They start out this research stating 2 different problems:

  • Women are the minority in the Tech field
  • Women have lower salaries than men do in technology careers.

Problem 1: Women are the minority in the Tech field

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Proportion of men (blue) and women (pink) in each career. From top to bottom: Marketing, Business, Design, Business Intelligence and Software Development.

The graph above doesn’t show us anything surprising: Women are REALLY the minority when it comes to Tech jobs. The biggest gap happens in Software development careers, where female candidates represent 73% less than male candidates. Going deeper on this topic, Revelo tried to find an explanation for this disparity. First they compared the proportion of number of interviews with male and female candidates according to the recruiters gender. For both male and female recruiters, they had very similar results: 89 and 88% of all the contacted candidates were men. We can conclude that the recruiter gender is not relevant, and for both genders, men are still contacted the most by companies.

To eliminate the fact that the number of applications received from women are way less than the number of applications from men, Revelo built another graph:

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This graph represents all the candidates approved in their first stage of application and the percentage of people that have been contacted by the company, and guess what? Women still have inferior numbers.

Their second theory was that women are less engaged with completing their profile and finishing technical tests. They were right about this one. For a hundred men, 87 women completed their profile, but only 50 of them started the test.

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1- Completed profile, 2- Started technical test, 3- Finished the test

This difference can happen for a series of reasons like biased technical tests or the lack of self-confidence from the candidates, the last one goes beyond Revelo’s data analysis. They consider important that companies eliminate questions where their approval rates are different for men and women.

Their last hypothesis for the first problem was that women and men have different behaviors accepting/declining a job offer. This one proved itself wrong though. Women and men candidates have very similar rates: 61% of women and 62% of men tend to accept a job offer.

Problem 2: Women have lower salaries than men do in technology careers.

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Average monthly salary per area and gender

The above graph shows us that, except for Data Scientist and Social Media positions, there is a salary gap for all the careers analyzed. It is incredibly sad that even working in the same position, women still have lower salaries than men.

One of the biggest factors for it to happen is the average salary expectation. women’s expectations are 13.5% lower than men’s.

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Salary expectation per career and gender

This is a key factor when analyzing the salary gap. In the following graph we can see how these expectations affect the recruiters’ salary offer:

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The gray bar represents the average salary expectation, and the pink and blue columns represent the salary offered by the company, for women and men respectively.

Their last hypothesis for identifying the origin of this problem consists in comparing the offer acceptance rate for male and female candidates when their salary expectation isn’t met. Women accepted offers 10% more frequently than men when the offered salary was lower than their expectations. It was also observed that men denied offers using the salary as a main reason 8% more than women.

We can conclude that the gender underrepresentation and salary gaps are big problems, and they are real. I’m happy to see the fast growth of resources for supporting women in technology. One of the biggest ones is the non-profit organization Girls Who Code. They aim to support and increase the number of women in computer science, close the gender employment difference and change the image of what a programmer looks like. Their founder Reshma Saujani has presented this informative and incredibly motivating speech that I’d like to share with you:

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