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Kickstarter Is Teaching the Tech World the Meaning of Gender Equity and Fair Pay

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By Cassie Werber Quartz March 5, 2017

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The tech world talks a good game when it comes to inclusivity. Most companies say they’re striving for a balance of genders and a fair showing of ethnic and other minority groups on staff. Most are failing.

The promises made by crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, it seems, aren’t just bluster. The company, which incorporated as a public benefit corporation in 2015, is legally obliged to look beyond profit and consider the public’s benefit in its decisions. Yancey Strickler, the CEO, told Quartz at the time that he wasn’t interested in becoming one of the start-up founders he saw around him who “gets rich and then stops caring.” In keeping with that sentiment, the company released its first public benefit statement (similar to a traditional US-listed corporation’s 10K), and the numbers on gender and pay look particularly good.

Gender ratios

Most notably, 61% of the company’s senior team is female, as are 50% of its executives. Not all tech firms report numbers in the same way, but most delineate in some way between management and the rest of the workforce. Few come close to Kickstarter on balancing women and men. Etsy, on online seller which is also a public benefit corporation, says its leadership is 50% female, but for most other firms the figure is far lower. Amazon doesn’t report its senior or leadership stats, but notes in its diversity report that among “managers,” 25% are women. Among top leadership it’s likely less: A 2014 report found that just 15% of Amazon’s highest echelons were female.

Gender imbalance has reached a flashpoint in tech culture. Last month, a female engineer who recently left Uber posted an incendiary account of discrimination she said she and the rest of the minority of female employees suffered there. In response CEO Travis Kalanick sent a memo to staff in which he gave the figures for women in tech roles at Uber: 15.1%.

Companies with high numbers of technical employees (engineers, scientists, product managers) do struggle to find women to fill the roles, and the overall gender imbalance often stems from that: Google’s tech team is 19% women, Facebook’s is 17%, and Etsy’s is 32% (Kickstarter doesn’t break out tech roles in its report).

But the big firms are also skewed towards men overall. Etsy and Kickstarter, both public benefit corporations, have resolved those inequities:

Pay grade

“Equality is also about compensation,” Kickstarter writes in its public statement, and its CEO’s pay attests to that. The company doesn’t release its revenue, but given that it takes a 5% cut of all successfully funded projects, its annual earnings are now in the tens of millions of dollars. Even so, Strickler’s pay has remained modest (last year he told Quartz he was struggling like many New Yorkers with young families to buy a house). His annual salary equaled 5.52 times the median total compensation of all non-CEO, non-founder employees in 2016, according to the statement.

On this front, tech companies span across the board. According to Glassdoor Larry Page, CEO of Google, only draws $1 in salary, while Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, makes four times the average. Apple’s CEO takes home 250 times what his average employee makes, and Amazon’s makes 15 times more. A study by Glassdoor, an employment research firm, which found that on average CEOs are paid 204 times more than average workers.

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