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Unless you work at Atlassian, Canva or Google, the tech sector union says workers face a massive pay problem

- May 28, 2024 3 MIN READ
man and woman in tech room
Photo: AdobeStock
  • Games sector employees are paid around half of staff at Atlassian
  • Women are paid up to 14% less than men, and are twice as likely to be bullied or harassed
  • Public sector IT workers received a 2% pay rise compared to a median increase of 5.8% for all tech workers
The Tech Council of Australia, which has founders from tech giants Atlassian and Canva on its board, trumpets the industry as a pathway to higher paying jobs, but a new report by the sector’s union, which delves into employee pay has found that unless you work at those companies, you’re unlikely to be paid very well at all, and women, yet again, are copping it.

The report commissioned by the trade union Professionals Australia found that the local tech and IT industries function as a two-speed economy with game workers, public sector employees and women at a significant disadvantage.

The Employment and Remuneration Trends for Tech and IT Professionals report found that game workers and government employees in tech and IT roles are paid significantly lower base salaries and pay rises than those in the “Traditional Tech” and emerging “New Tech” sectors.

The report was created from a survey of more than 1600 tech workers across April and May 2023. It segments tech workers into four groups – New Tech (large software businesses), Traditional Tech (data processing, managed service providers), public (government) sector and the games industry.

Women working in tech and IT also faced major disadvantages, with low representation, particularly in senior management levels, a significant gender pay gap and a greater likelihood of experiencing discrimination and harassment in the workplace.

Professionals Australia interim CEO Paul Inglis said Australian tech and IT was divided into a two-speed economy.

“The perception of the tech and IT sector is often of innovation, dynamism, growth and high salaries,” he said.

“But the reality for the tech and IT workers on the ground can vary depending on where you work and your gender. Workers in the ‘New Tech’ sector at companies like Atlassian, Canva, Xero and Google and the ‘Traditional Tech’ sector, including managed service providers and data processing, continue to enjoy higher base salaries and pay rises.”

But a tech worker in the games industry or public sector is likely to be on a base salary up to 50% less than private tech, and that gap continues to grow with pay rises also at half of the increase for workers in new and traditional tech.

The median salaries for all tech workers rose 5.8% as inflation sat at 7%, but for IT workers in the public sector, it was an average 2% rise.

But asking workers surveyed for the report how they felt about their more, just over half (51.7%) said they were either satisfied or very satisfied, with a remaining quarter (25%) responding ‘neutral’. Just 4% were very dissatisfied.

Satisfaction levels were highest for people working in the New Tech segment, who not only had the highest salaries but also received higher stock options.

The biggest surprise was that despite lower rates of pay people working in the games sector reported relatively high levels of satisfaction. The union put that down to optimism associated with recent higher pay increases.

While the issue of how much women are paid – and how much less than men – was hotly disputed by the tech sector when the federal government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) report on the gender pay gap was released in March, the analysis by Professionals Australia reconfirms those findings and identifies other problems too.

 Inglis also said that women in the tech and IT sectors continued to be worse off than men on a range of issues.

“With just 23% of survey respondents female, women in the tech and IT sector continued to be significantly underrepresented, particularly in senior managerial roles,” he said.

“Gender pay gaps in the games industry and ‘New Tech’ sector of around 14% persist, and it’s clear that businesses must do more to attract, retain, and support women into senior leadership roles.”

The survey found that women were far more likely to experience harassment and discrimination throughout the course of their careers in the tech and IT sector.

“Overall, women were also more than twice as likely to report harassment and bullying,” Inglis said.

“Women considering leaving the industry were more likely to report reasons of discrimination, bias and incompatibility of work with parenting responsibilities compared with men.”

Looking into workplace culture, survey respondents reported that being excluded was the most common problem and in the previous two years – through Covid – it was much more common among tech and IT professionals in the public sector than in the private sector. Discrimination and bullying were also more common in the public sector.

Almost three times as many public sector employees reported experiences of bullying over the previous 24 months compared to private sector employees.