Santa Clara Co. has widest gender pay gap in Bay Area

Santa Clara County has earned a reputation as a tech haven, but new numbers from the federal government show it also has the widest gender pay gap in the Bay Area.

“It’s a call to action in terms of what we need to do to improve things,” said Dr. Meg Virick, associate dean of the San Jose State University College of Business.

She says the tech industry is largely responsible for the pay gap.

According to the most recent figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, women in Santa Clara County earn just 62 cents for every dollar earned by a man, a decline of five cents since 2015. In San Francisco it’s 83 cents for every dollar. San Mateo and Alameda counties are at 78 cents, and the state of California’s average is 76 cents.

Dr. Virick says the numbers reflect both gender and race.

“We tend to have much more demographic diversity. We tend to have many more Latinas, Asians in comparison to other counties. And to have more of a high-tech focus,” said Virick.

Google is one company that tracks pay and analyses based on the job regardless of gender. Still there’s a racial component, as the lack of minorities in the tech sector is well documented.

Dr. Virick believes this further impacts the pay disparity. Some tech workers believe the best way to equalize pay is to increase participation.

“I believe the reason we’re having this conversation today is because I believe there are not enough women that look like me in the board rooms. Decision makers. The entrepreneurs who are building these big companies,” said Kiwoba Allaire, a contractor who works for Google.

She started a girls' STEM academy five years ago. It caters to children from eight-to-18, and is designed to spark interest in the tech sector.

“This is where I believe I need to make a change, and bring girls into Google from underrepresented communities so that they can see what the environment looks like, especially the eight-year-olds, so that they can be the CEOs,” said Allaire.

Allaire’s vision is in its infancy, and the STEM dropout rate for girls is formidable. Experts say despite years of study and action, the solution producing pay equity may still be years off.