Female DBAs Make Less Money. Why?

The 2018 Data Professional Salary Survey is open now, and you can look at the live responses as they come in. (To get that in Excel, click File, Download.) As of this writing (Dec 23), there’s already over 2,500 responses, so I’m going to take a look at a few things to see how it’s shaping up.

  • 64% (1,626) of responses are from the United States
  • Of those, 50% (809) are DBAs (either dev, general, or production focus)
  • 776 use Microsoft SQL Server their primary database

I’m going to focus on those just because it’s a large group of people with a lot in common, but if you want to do your own spelunking, by all means, grab the raw data and do your own slicing and dicing.

I’m going to focus on the female and male gender responses – there have only been a few non-binary responses, not enough to draw conclusions. I also took out the top 10 rows & bottom 10 rows by pay because they’re wild outliers – again, a real data scientist much more qualified than me should be doing a better analysis.

The remaining population:

DBAs by gender

Is there a gender gap in salary?

Drumroll please…

The gender gap

I’m no data scientist, but those numbers are pretty far apart.

So, why? Why are female DBAs paid less?

Can the survey tell us if there’s some other correlation – not causation, necessarily, but at least correlation? Is there a difference in experience, maybe? How much experience have you got with this database?

Experience by gender

Uh, no. Maybe the guys have been doing this particular job longer. Let’s see:

Women have been on the job longer

HAHAHA, wow. Women have been on the job longer than men, a lot longer.

That might actually be interesting – from anecdotal experience, I’ve heard that as your skills grow, you need to jump shops in order to get a raise to cover what you’re worth. But again, someone with more data science experience than me will need to dig in there.

Or maybe it’s because more guys manage staff. Do you manage other staff?

Amazing similarity

Uh, no, that’s not it either. Maybe the guys work in a different kind of shop with more coworkers. How many other people in your team do the same job as you?

Team size

Team sizes aren’t wildly out of whack. Do the guys have more education?

Education by gender

No, more guys are dropouts, and more women have Masters. How about certifications?

Certifications by gender

More women are currently certified.

There’s more dimensions you can slice & dice with, and I’ll leave that up to the pros. I’m curious to see what they find. Hey, I’m doing my job as a DBA – I’m empowering you to use the data.

Take the survey, and you can download the live raw data here (for Excel, click File, Download.) We’ll close the survey on January 7.

Update Dec 29Eugene Meidinger dove deeply into the statistics and it looks like yes, the numbers do back it up: female DBAs are paid less.

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100 Comments. Leave new

  • Slightly disturbing although not surprising.

  • I believe women get paid less simply because they don’t ask for more. I think part of empowering our WITs (Women In Tech), is encouraging them to be more aggressive in salary negotiations. I’m doing this exact thing in my current company by mentoring our only female developer. (We only have 3 developers total.) I don’t mentor her as a developer because I can’t write code for sh#t, but I’ve been coaching her on her development path. This includes discussing her current salary in comparison to those in the area, the intangibles (our leader developer is a bad a$$, and it’s worth a chunk of change to get to work with him everyday), and a timeline for demanding more money and/or an exit strategy.

    • Totally agree with Linux; was thinking the same thing even before I read his comment!

    • Linux – I have a tough time making sweeping generalizations like that about gender. It’s definitely possible, though, and hopefully having the discussion helps move things forward.

      • I should have mentioned that I am a female DBA, and most females I know have a very tough time asking for a salary increase. My husband coached me relentlessly on negotiating for my most recent position, and it paid off in spades.

        • Good for both you and your husband. I’m happy to see that your efforts paid on. It makes me feel like I’m on the right track with our young developer here.

        • I’ve never had success negotiating a raise with a current employer. Their decisions have already been made. Every pay raise of any significance came from negotiating with a different employer. Establish your goal, then ask for more so you have room to negotiate down.

      • I have to say that I’m with Linux on this one. In my (albeit limited) experience in managing mixed teams I’ve observed the following:
        – When negotiating a starting salary, males are less likely to accept an initial offer they consider low
        – When in position men are more likely just to walk into a manager’s office and make a case for a raise. It seems quite rare for men to do this but I have *never* seen a female do this despite knowing many that are both capable and deserving of a raise
        – When actually negotiating, my experience has been that men will actually negotiate longer and harder. Women will agree on a figure sooner, despite the employer being willing to offer more if she persevered.

        This is all just circumstantial and based on my own limited observations.

        I know for a fact that if female employees were less “agreeable” and willing to have conversations that they may find uncomfortable, it would almost certainly lead to better outcomes for them. This would also be true of some of my more agreeable male colleagues.

        I’m sure we all know many people who are paid more than they should be because they had the audacity to demand a bigger number. The converse of this is also true – we all have brilliant colleagues who are underpaid because they weren’t willing to have a challenging conversation

        • Simon — honest question, here. Why not just pay people based on what their skills are worth in their job function, rather than their negotiation skills?


          • >Simon — honest question, here. Why not just pay people based on what their skills are worth in their job function, rather than their negotiation skills?

            I think this is a great question and one that rattles around in my head an awful lot. I don’t know the answer but I don’t think its as simple as the question implies.

            I am a very big fan of the Netflix approach described in their culture and performance deck. Essentially they always pay top of market rates and they don’t negotiate, because its always already top of market. The quid pro quo is that the always and only accept top of market performance. If I were making the decisions (and I had Netflix level resources), this is the approach to enumeration I’d like to take. A Player Results = A Player Rewards. Of course most businesses don’t have Netflix level resources.

            In my own position I don’t set salaries – I only encourage/recommend and advocate for people where I can. However, in my experience it is very rare for a business to voluntarily suggest to an employee that they need a raise. It is more often than not something that needs to be requested and potentially fought for.

            Playing devils advocate for a moment though – I can see why an employer, with hundreds of competing needs would not be in a rush to throw money at someone who isn’t asking. An employer may express this is as “why should I negotiate a better deal for you than you can negotiate for yourself”? I could save myself 10K and spend it on improving the performance of my business in other ways. Who would say I was wrong to take this view?

            Just to be clear – I’m neither for or against that position. I haven’t figured out the answers other than to say, in my experience if you want a raise – you’ll need to go get it.

          • Stephen A Mangiameli
            January 24, 2018 9:02 am

            Simon, Netflix wants top performers and are willing and able to pay for them. But you don’t need Netflix resources though. Maybe you have a B player instead of an A player and are paying them accordingly. But if you recognize the potential and drive for that B player to be an A player, you better do what you can to retain that person or they will find a company that will. What will that cost you in time, money, and knowledge lost.

            Send them to training and pony up for the whole kit and caboodle (I hear there is this Ozar bunch that has some great classes). Offer them an incentive plan to get to A player status. Modest bonuses for exceptional work or generous PTO offerings are also nice incentives to stay.

            Just my $.02 based on companies I’ve worked for.

    • This is exactly right. I’ve had salary coaching from male mentors my entire career, and it’s helped SO MUCH. My experience lines up with the results of this survey; I regularly would have asked for or accepted 10-20% less than I (as it turns out) should have gotten, if I had not been told and reassured that yes, I should indeed be asking for more.

      I can’t strictly analyze the Whys of this, but I do have a general sense of “oh, that’s just too much to ask / there’s no way I could ask for that / it’d be presumptuous and rude to negotiate”. It’s something I still have to get over. This is why it’s a great idea for ANYONE to have trusted friends in the industry to be negotiation coaches, or at least negotiation reality-checkers.

      • (Mentioned this to Jen on Twitter but recording it here for other readers too)

        Hopefully, with enough data, my goal is that this salary survey becomes a simple online form to predict wage rates. We figure out the driving factors (geo, years experience, job title, etc), build a dropdown form to let people put in their info, and out comes a ballpark expected salary range.

        Then, hopefully armed with that data, people who are underpaid can use that data to right-size their paycheck.

      • “Salary coaching.” That’s one professional development topic I’ve never really been formally exposed to. Perhaps that’d be good fodder for a blog post or something? 🙂

    • AnonymousForThisOne
      January 2, 2018 7:08 am

      I’m a female DBA earning more than the highest-paid male DBA listed, and while I would agree that sometimes women don’t ask for more money, what’s rarely covered is *why* they often don’t ask for it. (I always do). Women who ask for more money are often subtly (or not so subtly) punished for it in some way. Certain old-fashioned attitudes do persist, sometimes even among the nicest of men, and that’s really hard to fix because it’s often unconscious bias. A lot of people say that the solution is that women “behave more like men”, but a lot of people just plain don’t like it when women actually do that.

      I would also say that in my opinion there is a very clear maternity penalty even when a woman who has children works full time. I don’t have children, and I suspect that is reflected in my salary.

      As also mentioned, changing jobs regularly is the best way to get a really good raise even if you don’t technically get promoted. If I’d stayed where I was 3 years ago, I’d be on about $60K less. Again, it’s easier to change jobs regularly if you don’t have any dependants, and even easier if your face fits (white, straight, able-bodied, etc.).

      I think salary transparency within companies would really help everybody. If you don’t know what your male (or white, or straight) colleagues are paid, how can you advocate for more for yourself? I have a black male colleague who suspects that he is underpaid compared to others doing the same job, but he can’t prove it. (He might also be wrong, but it’s the not knowing.)

      • Ms. AnonyMouse
        January 2, 2018 11:34 am

        What she said. Especially the first paragraph. I also make more than the highest-paid male listed, and agree that while women don’t negotiate, they don’t out of a combination of not being trained to and sometimes being penalized for doing so.

        (And yes, I’ve more than doubled the salary I made in 2011.)

        My mother was a single parent and should have jumped ship to get a raise when she got her degree. Instead, she stayed at her awful job because she felt like she couldn’t take that chance because she was the sole breadwinner for two teenagers, and just passively hoped they’d give her a raise. Ugh.

        All that said: I trained my sister to negotiate, and it served her well. Women, it’s true that you might be punished for negotiating, but it’s also true that if you don’t you’ll be paid less. That less adds up over the course of your career to be a lot less money to retire on. I recommend The GIF Guide to Getting Paid to start with.

        • I also make more than the highest-paid male listed

          The top salary in the survey is $1,450,000 per year, and it’s held by a man. Either you don’t make more than he does, or you haven’t filled out the survey, or you’re saying he’s lying, or multiples of the above.

          But you definitely haven’t filled out the survey if you’re saying you make more. Rather than talking here, why not fill out the survey and help your peers justify better wages?

          • Ms. AnonyMouse
            January 2, 2018 12:46 pm

            Oh. Haha.

            I meant that I made more than your $109K-$114K average. Sorry about that. I DID fill out the survey.

      • Ms. AnonyMouse
        January 2, 2018 11:43 am

        Oh. Also.

        Before some guy comes popping in to say “These two women probably make more money than I do and that PROVES this isn’t a problem!” (sorry, but that happens), I feel like I have to overachieve to be taken seriously, while men in similar roles are taken seriously by default.

      • > Certain old-fashioned attitudes do persist, sometimes even among the nicest of men.

        Just to give you hope – there are men out there who are the complete opposite of this and actively want you to succeed.

        For my part, ever since my daughter was born and I became more attuned to this I actually delight seeing women succeed. I think its brilliant when I see women kicking ass and taking names in traditionally male dominated roles and positions. It gives me hope that with the right attitude and guidance my daughter (currently 3!) will be able to achieve whatever she sets her mind to…

    • Deborah Moore
      January 8, 2018 8:21 am

      Unfortunately this is true. In the book Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg discusses this in great length. Before reading the book, I myself had always just accepted the salary offered when I took a position. Now, I always ask for more and generally get it. I have actually been asking for what I want in many other areas, not just salary. This has gotten me noticed and is making a huge difference in my career.

    • I agree. I am interviewing right now and the male DBAs application have the salary they are looking for in the resume and the women do not The WITs just have to learn to negotiate better terms for themselves.

  • Well, my first thought is you’ve got a small sample size there on female salaries. With roughly 100 female results, you’re looking at a ~10% margin of error, which is about your difference. But then again, like Brent, I’m not a statistician.

    • Wyatt – oh absolutely, that could totally be the problem – which is also why I had the call to action for folks to continue to fill out the survey (and more are coming in as we speak.)

      • For the gender gap to be more usefully analysed, we’d need to know things like:
        Got kids/dependents?
        Who looks after them?
        Does your employer offer great support for employees with families?
        What is keeping you in your job (money, prestige, easy commute, near a school/care home, etc.)?
        and lots, lots, more.

        Of course, it’d end-up being an odyssey into socio-economic psychology.

        Anecdotally, women I have worked with in IT have been promoted well, treated fairly, and had real influence. That’s private & government sector. But I have striven to work in great places.

        Also, whoever/whatever one is: join a union.

  • Christina Cuiniche
    December 26, 2017 10:22 am

    Can you slice by how often they work from home and their flex schedule and how many hours a week they work and if they’ve taken an unpaid maternity leave within the last year? I make less than my male co-workers on paper but I’ve taken two maternity leaves (though I always insisted on my annual raise before I went on leave) and I only work 4 days a week instead of 5 (though instead of just being salaried for 32 hours I went to hourly and my annual wage just got converted to a per hour amount).

  • I’d be curious about tenure at one company. What I have *NOTICED* is that men TEND TO BE more willing to change companies quicker… With that, you generally see higher raises when changing jobs (i.e.: I make 33% more a year than I was 3 years ago because of this.).

    • This is an additional benefit to raising your salary that few discuss, Wes. I have changed companies about once every two years and the advice was given to me to catch up with my male peers. I could stay at a company and receive the standard 4-7% raise or go to a new company and received 20% or more. It’s what makes me an outlier that had to be removed from Brent’s post, not just because I do more Oracle than SQL Server. We no longer live in an age of pensions and life-time benefits, so most realize, if you want to learn and be exposed to more technology, it’s important to move around at least once every 4 years or do more consultancy which will offer you those opportunities to grow.
      I have hopefully a good ending to a sad story about negotiating salary: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/high-impact-accepting-low-salary-offers-kellyn-pot-vin-gorman/

  • Limited to my experience. I saw more women IT workers in Seattle in my one .org and one .gov positions and fewer in my many .com positions. The .org and .gov positions had lower salaries, higher benefits and were more stable than the .com positions.

  • The women I worked with in .org and .com choose those positions because of benefits (including working conditions) and stability. I can only guess that the same might apply in the .com world. Most of my .com experience was in contracting…high pay, low stability and iffy benefits. Your data model doesn’t cover this. Risk vs. reward.

    • Steve – again, you need to look at the raw data before you leave further comments. The job type (contractor, FTE, etc) is also included in the data. Thanks for chiming in, but just make sure you do some due diligence before guessing more. 😀

  • My comments are about my experience. That’s why I prefaced by first comment with “Limited to my experience”.
    My comment are not about your data. Your data is not in any way, shape or form a scientifically sound model ofthe real world. Nor is any other survey of this type.

    • Steve – thanks, I had no idea your feelings were a scientifically sound model of the real world. I’ll definitely put a lot more weight into what you say going forward.

  • I did not state my feelings. I stated my experience. Neither my feelings or my experience are scientifically sound models of the real world.

    • Steve – if your experience isn’t tracked with data, then your interpretations of it are your feelings, not your experience.

      • My salary, my coworkers salary, my motivations and my coworkers stated motivations are all data points. My coworkers motivations as well as any of your data point my be lies. My collection of data points is insufficient to make complete conclusions about the universe of IT salary data points. That does not make them feelings. Anyone can access the IT salaries of the City of Seattle and the County of King (as well as other jurisdictions) employees online . Some of us can query that data directly.

  • I think it boils down to the three things other comments have mentioned: Salary negotiations, the willingness to job jump, and the perceived commitment to work vs family.

    There may also be another component of technical “otaku” or obsession in our culture that may attract males more than females.

  • I have a friend who is a manager at a big govt contractor firm in the DC area. He’s hired tons of programmers, developers etc. (both men and women) and he once told me, “I have hired women that would wipe the floor with men in terms of talent/skill….but they almost always ask for less than what the men ask for. I think it just comes down to women tend to ask less..” Whether that is out of “fear” , “self esteem” or “trying to be nice”…there definitely is a difference between men and women when it comes to “asking for more” (regardless of your skill level) and just settling with whatever initial offer you get.

    • Did you ask your friend when he hired these women, did he pay them what he was paying their male counterparts, or did he take the talent at a lower pay an perpetuate the pay gap problem? A girlfriend of mine recently went into pay negotiations for a position and asked for a salary she thought was fair for our area. Her new manager (a male), explained that the company paid more than the area average, and he was transparent about the salary of her male counterparts. He also offered her more than she requested so she was on par with her male counterparts. You better believe that her company loyalty is the highest it has ever been.

  • In my experience most women did not know how much to ask and unwillingness to jump. It much easier to jump now as suppose to 15 years ago. Knowing private vs contracting salaries is also a must.
    Brent thank you for making my job easy with FirstResponderKit.

  • Or perhaps it is that woman trust their employers to compensate them fairly and their employers low ball woman as a matter of course? I have been in IT for decades and if salaries are known the woman are always making less for comparable positions. One old employer I had felt that men should be compensated more because they were supporting families! As if woman weren’t. It is not that woman aren’t fighting for fair pay, most just don’t know a fight is necessary. crazy.

    • *It is not that woman aren’t willing to fight for fair pay

    • Ouch, that’s really sad to hear. Then it drives the question – how can we use this data to fix it?

      • 1. Have women network with other women to help them negotiate. The best support that resulted in the best salary increases were from my female mentors. We may not be known for negotiating as well for ourselves, but we’ll damn well tell each other we’re worth more and do the research to offer the best advice. 2. Have honest discussions with all your peers and find out what they do make. Glassdoor and other sites rarely can help you once you reach mid-tier positions to let you know what you SHOULD be making. We’re all in this together… 🙂 3. When you’re interested in a position, connect with trusted individuals who can offer insight into the organization and provide the best input for your best offer. Find out what the max title, salary, benefits, vacation time, stock options, etc. that they will offer. You may be surprised…. 🙂
        Last, but not least- the issue with women and salary is not something you can say “X is the problem.” It’s death by a thousand pin pricks and the complex combination of culture, bias, expectations and upbringing impact women from making as much as men, but it’s not all on the women candidates and you better believe that it’s only men they’re negotiating with.

        There are those of women in tech that have shown, it’s quite possible to overcome the negotiation tax, but damn well know, we’re often the ones to tell people to f’ off when we recognize patterns that will hinder us…. 🙂

  • These things are a lot more complex than overall figures can tell. There have been quite a few analyses across other fields that identified several different life / work balance preferences between men and women (including leaving the field early or temporarily for family balance). Professor Jordan Peterson (video ‘why are so few women in top positions?’) does an interesting analysis on women in the high end legal field who are damned good lawyers but ultimately decide that the aggressive extra hours and high personal demands are not worth it. He comes to the conclusion that the better question is ‘why do so many men persist in these careers of?’

    The truth is, in many fields, men (and teenage boys) tend to be more obsessively competitive. The vast majority of high risk, high demand jobs are taken by men, and it’s not really discrimination. It’s the (somewhat more) constructive side of ‘male aggression’ (certainly present in all mammals and all primates).

    Had a discussion a while back with a guy who sponsors competitive mountain bike races. His experience that the most aggressively competitive group he deals with are NY investment bankers (mostly male). He gave an example of one guy who broke a hand, but finished the race rather than drop out.

  • I’m currently a female DBA working in Atlanta for a public utility and making more than the top salary for males as listed above. I’m the Sr. Engineer in our company for SQL Server … schema design, tsql development, security, ha/dr, vm config/deployment, and production troubleshooting. My title is Sr. Database Administrator although I function as more of an architect. Over my career I’ve worked for almost every major software company in Atlanta, starting as a C programmer in the mid 80s and always been paid less than males when I started, then worked my way through the ranks. In a way, this approach is much safer than coming in at the top of the pack salarywise. During the job cuts of the 2000’s I often kept my position because I was viewed as indespensible compared to others … and my salary was less. Now that I work for a public utility, I’m not so concerned about layoffs as I used to be, but when I worked for American Software, the Federal Reserve, Motorola or any company that was supposed to run in the black, I didn’t want to be at the top of the salary curve. My salary at my current position is only as high as it is because my male manager insisted on it after I’d made several key contributions. I’m happy when I look at my income, compared to the reported findings here. However, I wonder that if I was retitled as a data architect I would then find myself behind my male counterparts, but I don’t really loose any sleep over it.

  • It’s a mans world. What did you expect? No Utopian fantasies here.

  • Maybe the issue is with job loyalty. Women just tend to stick it out longer [8.6 years to 6.6 years].

    Out of our IT department, we have 20 people, 5 females and 15 males. Out of those, we have 5 people who have been there more than 10 years and 4 of those people are women [last female hire was 2 months ago]. Raises are slim and not consistent but all the guys who have left after 4-6 years, they all got a 20% pay increase at the new job. There hasn’t been a promotion to a director level position in the history of the department itself.

  • Each company I’ve worked for has had very different attitudes to pay, which makes me think comparing people working for different companies is irrelevant, regardless of skills, responsibilities etc. Looking through your data the variation is incredibly wide when just looking at men, which would suggest my anecdotal experience is not far from the truth.

    The important thing from my perspective is the differences in pay between people working in the same company. That is the only way I would see differences as meaningful, and where I would be expecting a good explanation for why the differences exist if they do.

  • My opinion is the negotiation thing is a big factor. My friend and I just started a business, we’re we’re tiny but we do practice wage transparency. My view has always been that individual wage negotiations aren’t about rewarding talent, it’s about picking off weak negotiators. I’ve been the highest paid dev on a team purely by being lucky that that team was desparate when recruiting. I appreciate this would be non starter in many businesses, and there can be pragmatic for needing to throw more money at someone, but I tend to find when wage discrepancies come out people’s negotiating skills become much better. And then they leave, which underlines that’s it not often cost effective, more about percieved control. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/07/19/the-outrageous-pay-disparities-between-men-and-women-at-the-bbc/ This is quite a public example from the UK. There’s a human nature component to it. Every manager or boss considers themselves totally fairminded, and will often argue it’s about rewarding the best person for the job. But the aggregate almost always tells a different story, on gender, race, and the often overlooked class dimension.

  • (Note to eagle-eyed readers: a commenter left a detailed analysis here, then started walking his comments back as he started digging deeper into the data, and then finally emailed us privately asking us to delete the comments. That’s why they’re gone.)

    • That’s actually a shame. I enjoyed watching him go through the process. He should have just owned up to it.

      • I think once you’ve been blogging for a while, you’re more comfortable letting your mistakes be out there in public, permanently. I have the same feeling that you do there – but hey, I’m the one who openly sucks at data science and I’m publishing stuff, hahaha, so that part is obvious.

  • Oh man, not sure I want to touch this one (I totally do).

    While salary and gender are both objective, a lot of the other questions are subjective. Hours worked, for example. At the time of this post, they are 44.08 for women and 44.12 for men. Case closed, AmIRite?

    We’ve also got a $205k vulcan who works 50 hours a week, and a couple of attack helicopters. Maybe men who make less are unwilling to fill out the survey honestly. What about women who make more? Could they be less willing to fill it out, too?

    But how many do we really work? How long should that work really take us if we did it correctly?

    I’m pretty sure that both genders think they work way more than they actually do. For example, I’m at work 9 hours a day. It’s my third week at the job, so yes, I’m actually working for 9 hours a day (and not browsing blogs, LOL!), but at my last job, which I also did really well, I had it down to 2. I may keep showing up to this job for 9 hours a day, but if, 2 years from now, I’m still busting my ass – wouldn’t that make me kind of bad at my job?

    Is more hours worked for the same job even a good thing? Shouldn’t we be working smarter?

    So many hairs to split. It might be fun do to a survey with working habits.

    • Fun questions to ask:

      1. How many men/women had a role in hiring you?
      2. How many phone & face to face interviews do you go do per year?
      3. What’s your BMI? What’s your height? These are an objective measure for how attractive people might consider you. In my experience, this can be very relevant. For Men and Women. In my experience, good looks have no downside for men, but they have been a mixed bag for my wife.
      4. How many emails do you send/receive per week?
      5. How many days off (sick, vacation, personal) did you take this year?
      6. How many children do you have (affects men and women’s careers quite differently).
      7. Does your spouse work? full time?

      More subjective questions:
      1. When do you arrive at work, when do you leave?
      2. When does your boss arrive/leave?
      3.How often do you go to lunch with co-workers?
      4. How often do you go to dinner/drinks with co-workers?
      5. How many hours per week do you spend in meetings?
      6. How many meetings do you have per week? (These two will give us the average time of your meetings – a very important number for measuring productivity – shorter is better).
      7. Do you like your job?

  • Maybe an excellent follow up would be to ask what salary did you start at for your current title (eg: DBA)? Having heard early in my years that women don’t negotiate salaries I always made it a point to do so on every job (and have always gotten it). However, I’ve also heard people talk about not wanting to hire women on our industry (usually becz of “mother stuff”) and I can see how that would lower initial offers (or negotiations) if there is a perceived risk. Since this tends to be more of an issue with younger women (older women have enough experience under their belt to wave off these concerns), I’d be curious to know how much lower women start. Because that question can lead to “yes, you can ask for this big jump in salary since it is market price”.

    • Kristina – yeah, that’s a really interesting thought to raise next year when we ask for the next round of question improvements. (We post a question asking for your suggestions on questions & answers a couple of weeks before the next survey goes live.)

    • “I’ve also heard people talk about not wanting to hire women on our industry (usually becz of “mother stuff”) and I can see how that would lower initial offers (or negotiations) if there is a perceived risk” – This actually happened to me at my current job. I was newly married and 29 when looking for a new opportunity and after I was hired my boss told me there was concern from above about hiring me because I was going to “leave shortly to have babies”. In reality, my husband and I had no desire to have children. I took the low ball offer to get out of a bad situation at another job, but always regretted settling for less than I was worth. The good news is my company realized my skills were worth more that what they were paying me and over the years I’ve become the highest paid DBA on staff (and above the averages from this survey), even surpassing the males in my department with more experience. It’s worked out for me, but I wonder how many other women this has happened to and if they just accepted it, like I did.

  • Salary information from employees’ perspective is very interesting and tells some percentage of the story. I wonder if there’s a reliable way to capture (with a similar level of detail) information from the employers or managers. A couple of things I’ve found in my 20+ year DBA career:

    – I’m a white male, and not particularly “aggressive” or assertive. I’ve never had to ask for a raise or negotiate up, and over my career, my salary has been above average. I’ve had a few lean-years without or with meager raises, but also many raises that came out of the blue and were heftier than I would have asked for.
    – Managers will try to pay what they think they can get away with.

    It’s been suggested that we can solve this by teaching women how to act more like we think men do, but I’m not sure it alone would solve systemic bias where managers offer women less because they think they can.

    I’d like to know from managers whether they differentiate between men and women when offering raises and promotions.

    • Peter – just to make sure I understand correctly, you’re expecting to see a survey where folks publicly and honestly answer, “I try to pay women less and promote them less often.”

  • Yes, exactly. Is that too much to ask for?

    I understand it’s unlikely, but perhaps with the right amount of anonymity and the right questions (and I freely admit I have no idea what they would be) we could get a fuller picture. According to the data, it looks like employees are doing the right things to improve pay equality: education, experience, etc. So if the data says the problem is with the managers, I’d like to know why, and figure out a way to fix that.

    I expect that’s a question being asked in other places (academia, for instance), and doesn’t need to be addressed in your otherwise valuable and interesting survey.

  • I think that even with the responses skew between women and men, looking at the salary numbers overall, I don’t think that female salary figures are going to change that much. This is so interesting especially because I’ve been fortunate enough to not experience that disparity. I have to wonder if it’s where I live or if it’s me or some other strange factor I can’t see. Thanks for doing this again, Brent ?

  • […] Brent Ozar recently ran a salary survey for people working with databases, and posted an article: Female DBAs Make Less Money. Why? […]

    • Hi everyone! This is my attempt at analyzing from one small angle. Specifically, do we have enough data to show that the discrepancy between men and women is statistically significant? Check out the post and learn some statistics.

  • I have to say, as a woman working in this field, I’m finding the responses here (predictably) disheartening. I’m seeing that the commenters (largely men*, from what I can tell) are dismissing the argument on the following grounds:

    (a) The pay gap is not real and/or the data is bad (insuffient or not asking the right questions);

    (b) The pay gap is real, but it’s because women don’t negotiate well;

    (c) The pay gap is real, but it’s because of maternity leave;

    (d) The pay gap is real, but it’s because women don’t change jobs often enough; or

    (e) The pay gap is real, but it’s because women work in sectors that pay less.

    Claims (b) through (e) in particular suggest that it’s women’s fault that they are paid less–that our actions and choices (or lack thereof) are to blame, and that the gender wage gap could be remedied if we simply altered our behavior. These beliefs patronize women (who, apparently, just don’t know better) and allow men to ignore or dismiss this very real problem.

    Regarding (b), studies have shown that women do negotiate less frequently than men (see this study from the Harvard Kennedy School: http://gap.hks.harvard.edu/do-women-avoid-salary-negotiations-evidence-large-scale-natural-field-experiment). Stopping the argument at that data point, though, ignores correlated findings that explain why women negotiate less often–mainly, that negotiating too strongly (or at all) can carry negative consequences for women, including not getting the job at all. (See this study for a comprehensive evaluation of the reasons behind women’s hesitence to negotiate: https://www.cfa.harvard.edu/cfawis/bowles.pdf) It is simply not the case that women don’t negotiate because they don’t know what they’re doing.

    Regarding (c), I’ve always found this argument troubling. Men and women both want to have children (per a study done by SUNY Binghamton commissioned by Match.com, “men in every age group are more eager than women to have children. Even young men. Among those between ages 21 and 34, 51% of men want kids, while 46% of women yearn for young” [http://blog.match.com/2011/02/04/the-forgotten-sex-men/]). In the vast majority of cases (i.e., excepting cases of adoption, surrogacy, or *non-binary/trans parenthood), women have a non-negotiable medical need to take at least some time off work for their family to have children. The common argument that “women are paid less because of maternity leave, and having children is a choice” ignores the fact that both men and women desire children, yet only* women face professional consequences for this choice.(A “choice,” by the way, that a majority of people make: https://www.quora.com/Children-What-percentage-of-people-become-parents) Should women–but not men–be paid less for having children? Some might argue “yes,” but I find that troubling.

    Regarding (d), I’m not sure this is borne out by evidence. With a quick look, I couldn’t find much, but this study using LinkedIn job data suggests that women ‘job-hop’ more frequently than men do: https://www.fastcompany.com/3058996/why-women-job-hop-more-than-men

    Regarding (e), I again think this arguemnt ignores the reasons behind the workplaces chosen by men and women. Women do hold a strong majority of positions in the nonprofit sector. (This is less clear in the public sector, where women hold 57.7% of state and local government jobs and 42% of both federal and private sector jobs [https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R41897.pdf].) One reason that women may choose more jobs in these sectors is, in fact, the smaller gender wage gap, which may allow them to earn
    more even though nonprofits as a whole pay less (I unfortunately don’t have access to the full study, but from the abstract here: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0899764013502579). It’s also important to note that although 70% of nonprofit employees are women, less than 45% of nonprofit CEOs are women (https://www.fastcompany.com/3069018/the-nonprofit-industry-has-a-big-wage-gap-problem). On a related note, employees in women-dominated fields are paid less. This is not only true for historically women-dominated fields, but for fields that are becoming women-dominated; see this NYT review which details how wages fall as the percentage of women employees rises: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/20/upshot/as-women-take-over-a-male-dominated-field-the-pay-drops.html

    As a final comment, it seems to me that the goal of many commenters is to discredit, disprove, or dismiss this problem. To those people, I would like to sincerely ask: why? Do you believe the wage gap exists at all? If you do believe it exists, do you believe it’s a problem we should address and try to remedy? If you believe it should be remedied, do you think the solution largely lies with women, and in particular with modifications to women’s behaviors and choices? And if you believe this, do you believe that women who do not make such modifications “deserve” to be paid less? I ask this sincerely; if you choose to answer, I ask that you respond in the same spirit.

    (Everything I’ve said here refers to the gap between men’s and women’s pay, but I am coming to this discussion from a white woman’s perspective. The pay gap between races is much more significant and [to me] more disturbing. This deserves its own review and serious consideration, and I would encourage those behind this survey to include and analyze this information in future work.)

    • Caitlin – in terms of what questions & answers we include, feel free to propose the questions & answers you want. It’s totally open – we ask for your feedback every year. Here’s the post we did before this year’s salary survey:


    • Ms. AnonyMouse
      January 2, 2018 1:28 pm

      Caitlin, this is an excellent comment, thank you.

      I do think the pay gap is real, and exists for a multitude of complex reasons (both socioeconomic/environmental and in the way women are raised and continue to be treated as adults). As such, I don’t think there’s a simple solution (although I absolutely think we should try). I do, however, recommend negotiating your salary, and learning to do so if you don’t know how. It’s not going to make the problem disappear, but it can help.

      I also don’t think women who don’t negotiate “deserve” lower wages for the same job, but I think that they’re more likely to receive them, which makes me sad. (Friendly negotiating starter for women: https://medium.com/ladybits-on-medium/the-gif-guide-to-getting-paid-af4da612f249)

      I also agree that the pay gap between the races, especially combining race and gender, is well worth studying. Women overall made 78% of what white men made in all fields in 2013, but African American women made 64% and Latinas made 54%. https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/women/reports/2015/04/14/110962/women-of-color-and-the-gender-wage-gap/

      • Ms. AnonyMouse–Thank you for responding.

        Personally, I think everyone should be taught negotiating skills–at the very least, it reinforces the fact that negotiating is an option in the first place (embarrassingly, I didn’t really think it was, especially in my very early career, entry-level, nothing-special-required jobs).

        I agree with you on the “deserving” part. (As a side note, unfortunately, I think some people actually do think this is a reason that women deserve less money.) This falls into a category of thorny issues that I’m never quite sure where to land on. Sexual assault is a strong example–no one deserves to be assaulted, ever, and I don’t tell people what they should or should not do to avoid it. That said, I cast zero judgment on women who, say, won’t walk alone after dark or go out wearing revealing clothing in an attempt to reduce their chances of harassment. I think similarly of issues relating to presentation at work. It makes me angry that women are implicitly expected to wear makeup in the workplace (or, at least, are considered more professional when they do), and I wouldn’t advise a friend who didn’t want to wear makeup to a job interview to do so anyway. But, still, I wear makeup most days and wouldn’t interview without it. There’s an uneasy dissonance in these issues, and I find it tricky to express how I feel about them, though it generally comes down to “It shouldn’t matter, but take into consideration that it might anyway.”

        The racial pay gap is really, really depressing. I understand why the gender pay gap gets more airtime (it seems more of a “mainstream-acceptable” conversation, somehow), but that’s all the more reason we need to spend more research money and discussion space on racial wage disparities.

    • Caitlin – THANK YOU! As I was reading the comments I was wondering if I was the only one feeling that way. For what it’s worth, throughout my DBA career I have always questioned the salary differences, especially when a former employer posted the min, mid and max points for a salary grade and my salary was significantly below the min. It did no good (and yes, I did take into consideration years of experience, education, etc).
      Up until my current employment situation, the only way I could get closer to what the ‘standard salary’ was for a DBA in my geographical area (according to salary websites) was to change jobs….but do that too often and you are asked why you change jobs so often (does that happen to men, too?). I have worked with a number of males in the same position who didn’t know half of what I did yet came in at a higher salary. I do not have children, but that should not matter. We all get a certain number of paid vacation days and sick/flex leave, and most companies do have short-term disability policies that are available and used by both women AND men.
      As I moved through my career, I started asking for a higher salary with largely positive results, but I had the technical chops to back it up. I *think* I am doing ok in terms of my colleagues, but it is hard to measure that when pay grade salary ranges seem to be the best kept secret (at every company by which I was employed with the exception of one).
      At any rate, hanks for a well thought out response (and a chance for me to get up on my soap-box! 🙂 )

    • “it seems to me that the goal of many commenters is to discredit, disprove, or dismiss this problem.”
      Faced with the numbers from the survey, those who agree to the existence of undesirable paygap have no case to argue, no reason to post.
      Transparency is the first step to put the burden of proof for the status quo to other hands, hence these ‘disheartening responses’ are to be expected.
      As for your question if the gendergap could be remedied by changing behavior of women: I have noticed that there are men whose ego demand success and money, and spend more on boasting, image, winning negotiations. So yes,I think that getting a course on negotiation skills will relatively benefit women more than men.
      This will not fix the underlying bias against women, which happen on so many different layers. But again, if you like to think in terms of remedy then transparency is the first step in starting the discussion.
      ( this is all my unquantified and largely unqualified opinion of a male DBA )

  • Steve Mangiameli
    January 2, 2018 3:32 pm

    I think survey’s like this are great at providing insights with regards to what a job should pay in a given region.
    Thanks for providing the opportunity to find those insights, Brent!

    Does a gender gap exist? Probably. Can we nail down a specific reason? Probably not. And what if we could, would it make a difference? Beyond arming you with some info, probably not.

    The bottom line is that you get what you negotiate and can back up with your skills and expertise. Some of you are better at this than some of us. Some have it easier because of race or gender. But, at the end of the day you agree to an exchange – you provide the skills and an employer providers compensation. If you don’t like the agreement, do something about it. That’s what this survey is for; to provide you with some info. The rest is up to you.

  • Brent–Thank you; I’ve commented there as well.

  • Did the number of “years doing this job” include time off for parental leave? I’ve heard this trotted out before as a factor. Not sure how the norms are in the US but many parents take 6-12 months off for a new child in the UK, usually the mother. This is then said to equate to the mother with 10 years in the industry, for example, having 12-24 months less experience than a male of otherwise similar standing.

  • How many hours per week are worked? How many vacation days per year are left untaken?

  • No one complains about the density of female nurses.

  • There may or may not be a definitive wage gap, but given the sample sizes that you were able to gather, you run into a pretty big issue. A sample size of less then 100 women, vs a sample size of more then 650 men could certainly lead to issues.

    I think an interesting question is why is there such a disparity in the number of respondents? Are there that many more men in IT (certainly possible), is there something about your website that draws more men vs women, are men simply more willing to participate in this type of survey then women?

    Having a proper sample size is essential if you want to be able to draw proper conclusions from the data.

    And Brent, please don’t take this as a knock against you. You can only put the survey out there, the number of responses and who responds is certainly out of your hands.

  • So if I’m an employer, why wouldn’t I hire all female employees to save a fortune?

    For the record, I don’t make anything near the average female salary and I’m a male.

    • Many employers have biases around worry/concern that a female employee will have time for maternity or have more childcare needs that will affect their work life.

  • Martin von Hermanni
    June 23, 2018 1:49 am

    If you look at other dimensions of the data, you find a quite obvious correlation from salary to the company size: the more servers the company has, the higher the salary gets. Even if the employee “identifies” as female, she earns more than her mal conterparts in comanies with fewer servers.


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