According to the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP), privacy professionals worldwide enjoyed a salary increase of over $6,000 between 2019 and 2021. 

Salaries in privacy are relatively high—averaging $140,529 in 2021. 

But the benefits are not evenly distributed among the genders. 

Worldwide, male privacy professionals earn around 9% more than women—and there’s a 14% difference between men and women in the US privacy sector.

Could barriers to women’s career progression explain privacy’s gender pay gap?

Career progression and the gender pay gap 

Privacy is little different to other industries—nearly all of which display some difference between the average salaries of men and women. 

In the US, for example, the relatively wide pay gap among privacy professionals also exists among the general population. In fact, the gap is wider across all jobs—with women generally earning 18% less than men, according to the US Census Bureau.

So does stunted career progression among women explain the gender pay gap, in privacy or elsewhere? Not entirely—but barriers to career progression are certainly a contributing factor.

In the UK, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates that women earn 8.9% less than men among full-time employees. The ONS notes, however, that differences in rates of pay are insignificant among men and women under 40.

Employees over 40 are more likely to occupy better-paid senior positions—so this correlation between age and pay inequality suggests that women are less likely to progress to upper management. 

The IAPP’s 2015 pay equality survey reflects this. While the gender pay gap among privacy professionals with less than five years’ experience stood at 6%, the gap widened to 15.8% among privacy professionals with more than 15 years experience. 

So, the fact that women are less likely to occupy high-ranking roles is contributing to the gender pay gap. But what are the reasons behind this discrepancy in men’s and women’s job seniority?

The childcare gap

Childcare is one factor keeping women out of top jobs. 

Women tend to have a longer break in their careers post-childbirth—and they also tend to spend more time looking after children once they’ve returned to work.

The UK’s Government Equalities Office found that while around 90% of fathers were in full-time or self-employed work three years after the birth of their child, the figure was just 27.8% for women.

Long-standing attitudes and structural inequalities might explain this phenomenon. In the UK, women and men are both offered time off to care for children as part of the country’s shared parental leave scheme. But statistics suggest that only 2% of new parents split their entitlement. 

But the impact of childcare varies across countries and cultures.

A study of EU countries shows a “childcare gap” of around six years in Ireland and Italy, while parents in Denmark, Germany and Sweden tend to spend a roughly equal amount of time looking after children.

Unpaid work 

Alongside childcare, statistics suggest that women take on more unpaid work than men in other areas.

The 6th European Working Conditions Survey suggests that:

  • Women spend 17 hours per week caring for children, compared to 11 hours for men

  • Women spend 13 hours per week doing housework, compared to 5 hours for men

  • Women spend 6 hours per week caring for adults, compared to 5 hours for men 

All these factors mean women have fewer hours in the week to work and earn money—and less time to dedicate to career progression.

Equal work for unequal pay

It’s likely that direct discrimination against women plays a role in the gender pay gap, too.

Even when we adjust for factors like hours worked and job seniority, women are often paid less for doing the same work as men.

For example, a study of employees at the London School of Economics revealed that women earned an average of 10.5% less than men with comparable skills and experience.

And a paper by Desai et al found that women—even when their work was adjusted according to hours and job role—earned an average of over $34,000 less than men across 13 areas of healthcare.

Race is another compounding factor when it comes to pay inequality. 

In the US, white women earn 79 cents for every dollar earned by men—compared to earned 54 cents earned by Hispanic or Latino women. This race pay gap is likely to be explained, at least in part, by direct discrimination against minority groups.

Career progression and pay discrepancy: a vicious circle

Overall, it’s clear that a mix of external factors—including childcare responsibilities, other unpaid work, and discrimination—contribute to the gender pay gap. 

But career progression is a factor. Women’s average pay is brought down by their lower representation among the top jobs—and their ability to obtain these senior positions is affected by factors like childcare and discrimination.

As a result of the various influences we’ve considered in this article, women make up just 8% of Fortune 500 companies’ CEOs.

As for privacy professionals—while we don’t know much about the gender balance in top privacy jobs, it’s reasonable to infer that women hold fewer senior privacy roles privacy than men.

Companies can take proactive steps to close the “seniority gap” and support women in their career progression:

  • Monitor equality in your workforce—whether you’re legally obliged to report on gender disparities or not. Track outcomes to ensure women are well-represented among senior positions.

  • Offer flexibility—but don’t demand it. Some parents need to fit work around childcare, but don’t expect your employees to be available 24/7.

  • Offer women opposrtunities. If you find that your workforce is unrepresentative, consider how you can better support the women in your team to gain promotions.