Second only to Washington, D.C., in a new national ranking, Kansas City boasts a noteworthy statistic: Women in tech jobs are paid, on average, 2 percent more than their male counterparts.
It’s the fourth consecutive year Kansas City has earned a No. 2 on the list of the Best Cities for Women in Tech. But until now, the methodology and reality behind the ranking has been a mystery to Jennifer Wadella, she said.
“You just wonder about Census data that comes from the government and how it could possibly be on par with careers we have in the tech industry right now,” said Wadella, founder of Kansas City Women in Technology.
This go-round, however, SmartAsset, the fintech company that annually creates the list, better detailed how it determines the ranking, she said. Kansas City’s recognition in the SmartAsset report speaks largely to themes of consistency and growth of women in tech, Wadella said.
“We’ve created a large and robust community to help women grow their skill sets and network,” she said. “I think that kind of community that we built to have those conversations has definitely helped with the gender pay gap.”
Although pay for jobs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics is above average compared to other fields, according to a salary survey released last year by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, women nationally are consistently paid less than men for the same work, SmartAsset found in its study of data from multiple sources, including the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau.
“Additionally, women are often underrepresented in the highest-paying occupations,” reads the SmartAsset report. “In particular, women are underrepresented in STEM occupations, which in today’s economy tend to come with the best pay and strong long-term prospects.”
Story continues after the ranking.
A level tech environment?
While Neelima Parasker, owner and chief executive officer of Kansas City-based SnapIT Solutions, said she doesn’t think she’s been a victim of the gender pay gap, she thinks Kansas City’s consistent No. 2 ranking speaks to the predominance of the technology industry as a whole in the metro.
“I never felt like I got anything less than a man, basically because I think the living cost here in Kansas City is obviously less than the East or West coasts,” Parasker said.
Parasker wants to learn that Kansas City keeps making it to the No. 2 slot on the list, she said.
“It might not be a direct impact of what we’re doing consciously to improve women in technology,” she said, adding that both men and women, especially couples in which both spouses work in information technology, know the high salary ranges and, therefore, know how much to negotiate.
“But the work environment mostly doesn’t really differentiate between a man and a woman,” she added, saying she always felt like she could negotiate her own salary.
Kansas City’s family friendly nature also could play a role, Parasker speculated.
“I could raise a family, I could take care of my IT, and I could really have a quality life in Kansas City, in comparison to maybe the West Coast or East Coast,” she said. “I hear from my friends there that it’s very busy, and trying to have kids is hard. Maybe for men, it’s a better place.”
Strength in numbers
Kansas City could hit the No. 1 spot in future years, Wadella said, but it must be a collaborative effort that will take support from women and men alike.
“I think [the ranking] shows that the Kansas City community is largely supportive of diversity,” Wadella said, adding that she has seen other cities actually drop in the ranking. “The fact that we stay consistently at No. 2 is great. [But] if we want to grow our rankings, we need support from more companies in Kansas City supporting organizations like KC Women in Tech.”
While Wadella doesn’t credit her nonprofit’s efforts for the ranking, she believes KC Women in Tech has provided many local women with programs and resources to stay competitive in the field, she said. The nonprofit’s mission is to grow the number of women in tech careers in Kansas City, so many of the its programs involve networking and mentoring, coding and web development classes, and coaching on salary negotiation.
KC Women in Tech’s programs are so popular that seats fill up months in advance; they often have waiting lists — sometimes 50 names long — for both students and mentors, Wadella added.
“There’s this huge drive that’s been consistent for over a year now of women really jumping in the tech field both feet first,” Wadella said. “We’re doing everything we can to meet the huge demand.”
People outside of Kansas City are taking notice of the work KC Women in Tech is doing, Wadella added.
“We have been approached by people and organizations outside of Kansas City who are wanting to sit in on the programs we run and get coaching from our leadership team to learn what we’ve done for women in technology in Kansas City in order to bring it to their own cities,” she said.
Parasker also wants to generate interest among women in tech careers, especially to show the creative sides to the tech field, she said. For example, she suggested training women on designing products for which users are predominantly women.
“If design is only created by men, when a lot of products are being used by women, you’re missing the point in how to design the product,” she said.