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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella speaks at Microsoft Envision
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella speaks at Microsoft Envision

April 12 is Equal Pay Day, a date chosen because it represents the additional days a typical woman would have to work to catch up to the money earned by her male counterparts. To mark this date, Microsoft has followed Amazon’s lead by disclosing employee pay equity numbers, comparing pay for men and women in the same roles.

In a statement released Monday, Microsoft says female employees earn 99.8 cents for every dollar earned by men with the same job title and level in the U.S. A few weeks ago, Amazon made a similar disclosure. After an internal review, the retail giant said that female employees earn 99.9 cents for every dollar male employees in the same roles earn.

Both Seattle-area tech giants disclosed these numbers after Arjuna Capital, a division of the investment advisor firm Baldwin Brothers Inc., called on tech companies to be more transparent about men and women’s salaries.

Kathleen Hogan, Microsoft executive vice president of human resources.
Kathleen Hogan, Microsoft executive vice president of human resources.

“These numbers reflect our commitment to equal pay for equal work, and I’m encouraged by these results,” Kathleen Hogan, Executive Vice President of Human Resources, wrote on Microsoft’s blog. “We will continue our commitment to equal pay by monitoring this data and publicly disclosing it as part of our annual public diversity and inclusion information and data reporting.”

On the surface, the numbers suggest progress in closing the gender pay gap, but they don’t tell the whole story. The statistics compare men and women in the same roles, but don’t account for promotion velocity or how many (or few) women are employed at each level.

“We are focusing on equal pay for equal work, as that relates to employees in the same job titles, but you are correct that the disparity between men and women in leadership is striking,” Natasha Lamb, director of equity research and shareholder engagement at Arjuna Capital, told GeekWire via email. “The incentive for companies to close any gender wage gap is to move more women into leadership positions. By doing so they will create more diverse teams, innovation, and better financial outcomes.”

It’s an important and, arguably, harder-to-reach goal. In November, Microsoft’s EEO-1 report, which the federal government requires major employers to file, showed that, of the company’s highest ranking 155 employees, 126 were white or Asian men. Only 18 employees in that cohort were women.

“Our senior leaders continue to be deeply committed to doing everything possible to improve these numbers,” Gwen Houston, Microsoft’s general manager of diversity and inclusion,” wrote in a blog post at the time.

At the same time, gender diversity on Microsoft’s senior leadership team — which reports directly to CEO Satya Nadella — has reached an all-time high, consisting of 27.2 percent women, according to statistics released by the company. That’s up from 20 percent a year before.

Microsoft's Gwen Houston.
Microsoft’s Gwen Houston.

Despite the controversial new data from Microsoft and Amazon, some argue that partially transparent numbers are better than no numbers at all.

“I am not satisfied with Facebook’s disclosure, as they did not report an actual number,” said Lamb. “Just saying men and women are paid equally is not enough. Companies need to be disclosing quantitative data points and the components of compensation included in their analysis. For instance, is Facebook looking at bonus and equity pay as well? Their current disclosure does not answer that question.”

The disclosures from Microsoft and Amazon signal some progress but also indicate we have a long way to go before Equal Pay Day truly becomes an occasion to celebrate.

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