The U.S. tech industry has steadily grown year-over-year and is projected to see another 178,000 tech jobs enter the market in 2022. But while the industry's median income continues to skyrocket above the national median income, women only make up 26.1% of all tech workers and earn just 84% of what men do. Depending on the city, however, some women fare better than others and represent a larger portion of the tech workforce. Keeping this in mind, SmartAsset analyzed data to identify and rank the best cities for women in tech.
To do this, we compared 59 U.S. cities for which full data was available and ranked them according to the following four metrics: gender pay gap in the tech industry, income for women in tech after deducting housing costs, women as a percentage of tech workers and three-year growth in tech employment. For details on our data sources and how we put all the information together to create our final rankings, read the Data and Methodology section below.
This is SmartAsset's eighth annual study on the best cities for women in tech. Check out the 2021 version here.
Representation of women in the tech workforce has not improved since last year. Nationally, women have made up about one in four tech workers over the past several years. In this year's study, Detroit, Michigan has the highest percentage of women tech workers (41.7%) and Irvine, California has the lowest percentage (18.9%).
Surprisingly, no California cities made the top 10. Overall, California cities fall behind for tech employment growth over the last three years and the gender pay gap. The highest ranked California city is Sacramento which ties for No. 11 with Nashville, Tennessee.
The tech industry is booming in Utah's Salt Lake City, though the city ranks third-worst for women in the field. Census Bureau data shows that from 2017 to 2020, the tech industry in Salt Lake City grew by 62%, the most of any city in our study. However, women make up less than 20% of the workforce and make only 74 cents on the dollar relative to men.
1. Arlington, VA
Arlington, Virginia remains at the top of our study's rankings for another year. Women make up 34.3% of the tech industry, which ranks fourth-best. In this city's tech industry, women can expect to earn about $89,500 on average. And when compared with men's salary, women earn 91% of what men do (ranking ninth-best). After deducting median housing costs in Arlington, women in tech can expect to have $63,800 in salary remaining, which ranks 11th-best for this metric.
2. Washington, DC
Holding steady in the second-best spot on our list is the nation's capital. The District of Columbia ranks second-best for the percentage of women in the tech workforce (38.3%) and women working in tech earn 90% of what men do in the same field on average. Income after housing costs for women in tech amounts to $61,087 (ranking 14th-best).
3. Houston, TX
Jumping up four spots, Houston, Texas ranks first overall for the gender pay gap: women earned 98% of what men do in the tech workforce on average. Also, women tech workers earn $65,662 after housing expenses are accounted for (ranking ninth-best). Between 2017 and 2020, total tech employment grew by 13% and in that workforce, 27.5% of workers are women.
4. Baltimore, MD
Baltimore, Maryland took a backseat to Houston, Texas this year but still remains near the top of the list. This city ranks second-best for the gender pay gap between women and men in tech (94%), 10th-best for the percentage of women in the tech workforce (29.9%) and 15th-best for the income after housing expenses ($60,714).
5. Chandler, AZ
Last year, Chandler, Arizona ranked 14th-best overall in our study. This year, Chandler has gained traction and landed in the No.5 spot. Reasons for this include closing the gender pay gap (which is how much a woman earns compared to what a man earns): from 85% last year to 94% this year and income after housing increasing to $67,369.
6. Fort Worth, TX
Another Texas city in the top 10, Fort Worth moves up from 18th place in our study last year. The percentage of women in the tech force is 27.3% (ranking 20th-best). After housing expenses, women tech workers can expect an income of $52,737. When compared to men tech workers, women earn 94.3% what men do. The Fort Worth tech industry has grown substantially in recent years, with employment growing by 26.5% between 2017 and 2020.
7. Durham, NC
Home to Duke University and part of the Research Triangle Park, Durham, North Carolina ranks as the seventh-best city for women in tech. Women tech workers in this city make up 28.9% of the field (ranking 12th-best). After deducting the city's median annual housing costs, their income is $57,396 (ranking 18th-best) and between 2017 and 2020, tech employment has grown by 25.8% (ranking 17th-highest).
8. Virginia Beach, VA
The second Virginia city in the top 10 is Virginia Beach. In this city, 28.6% of the tech workforce is made up of women. Virginia Beach ranks 11th-best for how much women tech workers earn compared to men tech workers, at 91%. Income after housing expenses is $52,651, which ranks 31st-best.
9. Cincinnati, OH
Cincinnati, Ohio is the only Midwestern city in our top 10. The city ranked in the top 10 cities for two individual metrics: women as a percent of the tech workforce (30.5%) and the gender pay gap (92%). After deducting housing costs, women tech worker's income is $48,670. Overall tech employment in Cincinnati has increased by 24.0% between 2017 and 2020.
10. Boston, MA
Boston, Massachusetts rounds out our top 10. Between 2017 and 2020, total tech employment grew by 20.2% (which ranks 37th-best) and as of 2020, women tech workers make up 29.4% of the tech workforce (which ranks 11th-best). When examining income, women earn 86.2% of what men tech workers do in this city (ranking 22nd-best). Also, when housing expenses are deducted, women tech workers earn $56,076 (ranking 20th-best).
Data and Methodology
To find the best cities for women in tech, SmartAsset looked at data for cities with at least 200,000 residents. We removed cities from our data set that did not have statistically reliable data (i.e. the margin of error for average earnings for women who work in tech or the number of women working in tech was greater than 20%). Those two constraints left us with 59 cities, which we compared across the following four metrics:
Gender pay gap in the tech industry. This is average earnings for women who work in tech as a percentage of average earnings for men who work in tech. Data comes from the Census Bureau's 2020 5-year American Community Survey.
Earnings after housing. These are the median earnings for women who work in tech after subtracting the median housing costs. Data on earnings comes from the Census Bureau's 2019 5-year American Community Survey. Data on housing costs comes from the Census Bureau's 2020 5-year American Community Survey.
Women as a percentage of the tech workforce. This is the percentage of all tech jobs held by women. Data comes from the Census Bureau's 2020 5-year American Community Survey.
Three-year tech employment growth. This is the percentage change in tech jobs from 2017 through 2020. Data comes from the Census Bureau's 2017 and 2020 5-year American Community Surveys.
We ranked each city in every metric, giving a double weight to the following metrics: gender pay gap in tech industry, earnings after housing and women as a percentage of the tech workforce. We gave a full weight to the remaining metric, three-year tech employment growth.
Using those rankings, we found each city's average ranking and used the average to determine a final score. The city with the highest average ranking received a score of 100, ranking as the best city for women in tech. The city with the lowest average ranking received a score of 0, ranking as the worst city for women in tech.
Tips for Navigating the Tech Industry
Ask for a raise. One way to combat the gender pay gap is to be proactive. Learn how you can prepare yourself to have that conversation with our tips for negotiating your salary.
Find support from your peers. Several programs exist to help advance women in tech at all stages in life and their career. "In order to grow in one's career, we need role models and mentors. If we devote more energy to hiring top female talent in tech, the female junior-level hires will have a better chance of success in growing into those roles as well," said Eropa Stein, Founder and CEO at Hyre. "They need to see other females in the positions that they eventually want for themselves in order to self-actualize."
Work with a professional. No matter your gender, a financial advisor can guide you through important financial decisions. SmartAsset's free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you're ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
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