Seattle-based PayScale leads on wage gap research

Photo courtesy PayScale

Founded in 2002, wage analytics company PayScale boasts the world’s largest salary profile database, used to aid individuals and companies in understanding compensation at their organizations. PayScale’s data is also the source for comprehensive research on issues such as the wage gap facing women and people of color.  

PayScale’s focus is on crowdsourced data—individuals fill out a survey with information on their job title, salary, past positions, level of education, and more. Since its founding, the company has grown to over 400 employees spread across several offices, including the roughly 300 employees housed in its Seattle headquarters.   

“We feel very lucky to be in Seattle,” says Lydia Frank, PayScale’s Vice President of Content Strategy. “It has been great for us from a talent perspective, and also I think Seattle is a place where a lot of these issues around compensation, like minimum wage, CEO-to-worker pay ratios, pay inequities, are talked about a lot. It’s a good place to be for us for business.” 

PayScale’s large crowdsourced data set provides a unique opportunity for research. Frank is proud of PayScale’s work on gender equity, explaining, “When we started to do research on the wage gap, there was a pretty common objection to there even being a wage gap. We’re a data company, we can answer this question with data. There’s tens of millions of people who have filled out the survey—there can be no doubt that we have a big enough sample.”  

What does that sample show? First, PayScale has addressed the myth that the wage gap disappears when you account for the fact that women are underrepresented in leadership roles and in high-paying fields such as tech. PayScale’s data does show that the wage gap shrinks significantly when controlled for “equal pay for equal work” within similar job titles and industries. But even when controlling for factors besides gender, they found that the wage gap persists, and it grows larger as women progress further in their careers.  

It’s also a bigger problem in certain industries: “oil and gas for example, when you control for everything you could possibly control for and it’s literally women and men with the exact same job, the percentage difference was over 7%,” according to one of PayScales’ analyses.  

PayScale provides companies with a gender pay gap analysis feature, so that companies can easily identify pay discrepancies within their organization. PayScale uses this tool to analyze pay equity within their own company and shares the data with its employees. They also recently began partnering with 100% Talent, a regional effort to eliminate the wage gap in Seattle and King County.

Solving the wage gap issue is complicated, says Frank. “It’s solving the leaky pipeline in STEM. It’s solving women not getting promoted to director and VP and C-Suite positions at the same rate as men, and that’s not an overnight problem.” But she is still optimistic, saying, “I’m proud that we can use our data for good in that way, to help dig in on the problem and help companies and individuals understand it better, so we can get to solutions.”