A modest proposal for solving the gender problem in technology

TL;DR – The way to get more women into tech is to pay women more than men.

My starting point for this argument is the contention that diversity would improve the quality of tech companies’ products and by extension, increase shareholder value. If you don’t believe this proposition, go read Scott Page’s The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies and convince yourself. I’ll wait.

Ok, now that we are on the same page about that, the path forward is clear. In Econ 101, you learn that when the supply of something is smaller, the price is higher. There are fewer women in technology, and given their value to companies, it is clear that the market should be paying more money for them. Therefore, my modest proposal for solving the problem of gender diversity (or any diversity you might want) is to pay more to women engineers than male engineers. If large tech firms actually did this, I have no doubt that top firms (Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, etc) would see their diversity numbers improve markedly. I also have little doubt that we would get more women in tech overall. In fact, maybe in our professional lifetimes we could get to a point where men could be paid as much because the supply is the same (a dream, I know).

You might object that this is illegal–well, if we believe that diversity improves shareholder value, then you are not discriminating (i.e. it’s not equal work since women give you better outcomes, so paying women more is ok).

So, big tech company, if you are unwilling to do this and put your money where your mouth is–why is that? Is it that you are just paying lip service to diversity but unwilling to really do anything about it? If you had another factor of production that was important and you didn’t have enough of it, you’d pay a premium. Why aren’t you at least trying?

(At the very least you might consider increasing your referral bonuses for referring female engineers).

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