How do gender and ethnic background affect pay in tech?

This short-form, data-led article uses cord data on the ethnicity, gender and salary expectations of engineers to identify the pay gaps that exist between different gender and ethnic groups in the tech industry.

The original can be read here. More articles in the same series can be seen here.

Contextual data

White females have the lowest average salaries of all groups of engineers, at £62,019. The average female from a minority ethnic background earns £67,925, and white male engineers earn, on average, £72,573. Minority male engineers are the highest earning group, with an average salary of £77,576 – 25.08% greater than that of the average white female.

Below, the data is explored by function, job title (among developers), seniority and years’ experience, in order to compare the difference between the salaries of engineers of comparable ability and experience from different gender and ethnic backgrounds.

Unless clarified by context, “engineer” is used to refer to any professional who has created a profile for job-seeking purposes on cord. Engineers are carefully selected to be able to create profiles on cord. They require professional experience in Tech and Product-related roles, and are therefore specifically represent people working in these roles rather than, as many other statistics sometimes cover, the “Technology industry” as a whole. It is therefore felt that the data discussed here gives a unique insight into gendered and ethnic pay differentials among people working in Tech and Product-specific roles.

Salaries by function

Graph showing average salaries of white females, minority females, white males and minority males by function

Minority males are the highest earners in each function, while white females are the lowest earners in every function. Minority females earn more than white males in Development, but white males earn more than minority females in Infrastructure, Data and Product & Design.

The disparity between highest and lowest earners is greatest in Development, where males from ethnic minority backgrounds earn 29.99% more, on average, than white females.

Developer salaries by job title

Graph showing average salaries of white female, white male, minority female and minority male developers by job title

Males from ethnic minority backgrounds earn more than other groups in every job title within Development, and again, white females earn the least.

The disparity is greatest in back end, where males from ethnic minority backgrounds earn 28.57% more, on average, than white females.

Salaries by experience

Graph showing average expected salary of white females, minority females, white males and minority males by number of years' experience

Males from minority backgrounds earn more, on average, than other groups at every level of experience.

Men from ethnic minority backgrounds with 2 years’ experience earn more, on average, than white women with 5 years’ experience.

Key Insights

  • Across all tech and product functions, seniority and experience levels, men from minority backgrounds are the highest earners, while white women are the lowest earners
  • Men from ethnic minority backgrounds earn, on average, 25% more than white women
  • The average white female needs 6 years’ experience to out-earn the average man from a minority background with 2 years’ experience

Data Disclaimer

Data refers to 54,082 engineers across all locations (primarily London, Europe/Remote, and New York) on cord.

Gender is determined by one of two methods. All engineers are given the opportunity to self-ID. Roughly one quarter of engineers do so. The remainder have been assigned a gender (male or female) by a third-party predictive API ( based on their name. The API makes mistakes, but is accurate in 90-95% of cases. The same API is used to predict the ethnic background of all engineers.

All salary data is based on engineers’ expected salaries on cord, which is used as a proxy for actual salary.


This is a short-form piece aimed at letting Back End developers know which skills are most in-demand, according to data derived from cord’s product.

There are others like it viewable here. The original post for this article is here.

Demand for specific Back End development skills is difficult to quantify without hard data.

cord have analysed the average number of messages received by Back End developers with specific skills, allowing Back End developers to make more informed decisions based on relative demand for their skills.

Graph showing average number of message requests received per engineer with different Back End development skills on cord

The data show that TypeScript is the most in-demand skill for Back End Developers. Developers who listed TypeScript as a primary skill received, on average, 16.37 message requests each.

The next most in-demand skills are Go, Node.js, Microservices, React and AWS.

Of the top ten most in-demand skills, the least in-demand was APIs – which averaged 10.19 message requests per Engineer listing API building as a skill.


“Primary skills” refer to the skills that engineers identify as part of their primary skillset when they create their profiles on cord. They can select multiple skills.

“Message requests” are messages sent by companies to engineers, regardless of whether or not the engineer accepts that request.

The ingredients of our best work

This article, which features embedded clips from cord’s Best Work podcast, is aimed at software engineers looking for an introspective overview as to what factors they should consider when determining what sort of work they ought to do.

It can be read below, or at the original location here.

Identifying our place in the world through our work has stretched the minds of philosophers since ancient times – from Socrates and Confucius through to the likes of Marx, Kant and contemporary thinkers such as Alain de Botton. Deeply entangled with questions like “What is the meaning of life?” is that of “How should I spend my time?”

For most of us, answering this question will focus heavily on the work we do. To those of us fortunate enough to enjoy a degree of choice over our work, choosing correctly – identifying our best work – is a key component in living a fulfilling life.

The simplest way to categorise the “ingredients” that combine to produce our best work is generally to divide them into two categories: extrinsic, and intrinsic.

Extrinsic factors are those that come about as a result of doing work. These include money (and similar forms of non-salary benefits, in many modern companies), but also factors that, in one way or another, elevate our standing as individuals within our society, such as prestige, or power and influence.

Intrinsic factors are those that derive directly from the work itself. The sense of fulfilment we gain from performing work, the challenge it sets us, the personal growth we experience as a result of this, and the enjoyment we gain from doing the work in itself. Social impact is, here, included as an intrinsic factor, despite the fact that it implicitly relies on others beside the individual(s) doing the work.Find your best work with cord

Extrinsic factors


It seems natural nowadays, but the idea of salaried work as a route to happiness and satisfaction is a relatively new one.

Aristotle felt that paid labour was incompatible with living a fulfilled life, as it would corrupt the body and stagnate the mind, while Christianity maintained that work was a punishment meted out to humanity in penance for Original Sin. Avarice – the desire for wealth – was considered one of the seven deadly sins by Christian thinkers.

Not until the second half of the 20th Century did (most of) Western society truly shake off this notion and come to view the desire for material remuneration as a positive end in itself; the incentive to productive labour that, in turn, powered economies and enriched societies. The economic policies of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher during the late 1970s and 1980s embraced the concept at the heart of consumer capitalism; that work could do more than satisfy people’s basic needs, and in fact cater to their ever-expanding wants.

Wherever individuals stand on the political, economic and moral ramifications of consumer capitalism, one thing is clear: salary in the early 21st century is a fundamental element of how people evaluate their current or desired work. It consistently ranks as the most influential factor in people’s decisions to change jobs, and invariably is among the chief rankles of labour unionists leading industrial action.

It is, therefore, entirely natural that financial remuneration is the first component of our best work. For most individuals, work will have to provide the means to meeting certain life criteria – covering, say, the costs associated with children or the pursuit of leisure activities – as a minimum before it can be considered a person’s “best work”.

Counter to this, however, is research suggesting that, beyond sufficiency to cover our basic needs, more money does not necessarily correlate with greater happiness (though some recent studies have pushed back against this view). Additionally, focusing too heavily on financial aspects can blind us to the innate satisfactions of voluntary work or, at the extreme end, ascetic forms of work such as monastic lifestyles.


Not all the extrinsic rewards of work are material. Some forms of work are performed for the reputational advantages they confer.

For example, academia is in many respects a poorly-remunerated field of work (especially in relation to the training or educational inputs required). In this field, the principle extrinsic reward is the prestige of having one’s name appear on, say, the cover of Science magazine, or the moniker of a theorem.

For engineers, building an app that is well-regarded and used enthusiastically by our peers can have as strong an extrinsic pull as work that is financially rewarding, but less prestigious.

Power and influence

In the UK, a member of Parliament earns £84,144 per annum. In addition to this, a cabinet minister earns an extra £67,505, while the Prime Minister earns an additional £75,440 per annum, bringing the maximum salary that can be earned through British politics to just under £160,000 per annum.

This is by no means a small salary. However, many British politicians have net worths several times this amount, and former careers in fields like investment banking that pay substantially higher. The stresses and exertions of a political career clearly aren’t justified on purely financial grounds; it is the power and influence (as well as the prestige) that comes with shaping a country’s governance that attracts people to this field.

This is an extreme example of power and influence as an extrinsic factor in the work people choose. But there are abundant more everyday examples – police officers, teachers, journalists and, indeed, CEOs are all positions that people choose in part because of the power and influence they convey.

Intrinsic factors


The idea that the kind of work we do completes us as humans (or prevents us doing so) dates back, again, to Aristotle, but has received greater attention in recent years.

Roman Krznaric defines fulfilling work as “work that is life-enhancing, that broadens our horizons and makes us feel more human.” He adds that “just as we seek to express our individuality in the clothes we wear or the music we listen to, so too we should search for work that enables us to express who we are, and who we want to be.”

There is, then, a school of thought with a long and proud pedigree suggesting that our work, and how we perform it, is an essential part of who we are, as a species and as individuals. Work that realises our fullest potential selves – through self-actualisation – positions us closer than any other kind to the top of the Maslow pyramid, and in this sense is the closest to what might universally be defined as a person’s Best Work.

Indeed, fulfilment is perhaps the ultimate intrinsic benefit of work: the following intrinsic factors are its contributory features.


Lots of animals experience boredom. It’s tempting to add that humans are particularly susceptible to it, but this may just be anthropocentrism.

What is clear is that evolution appears to have equipped us with a psychological drive to action. Most people, if they remain inactive for extended periods of time, slip into deep states of boredom with potentially serious psychological consequences.

Work challenges us. At its best, work provides us with physical and/or mental stimulation that we depend on psychologically. For this reason, more challenging forms of work (such as playing professional tennis, or software development) are likely to be closer to our best work than more sedentary, repetitive jobs, provided that they are within the bounds of our ability – i.e. are not so challenging that they cause distress.

Learning and development

When our work challenges us, we learn from it. Physically challenging work (within reason) strengthens our bodies, and mentally challenging work broadens our minds. The physical and psychological benefits of work are ends in their own right, but their impact on us enable us to enjoy our time outside of work more, and perhaps even prolong our lives.

For this reason, it is not uncommon to hear people cite length of time in a role served and a flattening of the learning curve as reasons to begin searching for new work. A person’s best work is likely, therefore, to be in a field where as they learn and grow, their scope to take on new challenges, and learn still more, expands accordingly.


Work can, and at its best should, be fun. James Suzman observes that part of the difficulty of even defining what “work” is lies in the fact that the distinction between work and leisure often depends on context: “to a commercial artist, drawing is work, but to millions of amateur artists it is a relaxing pleasure.”

Many software engineers are drawn to the field because of the innate enjoyment that can be taken from solving complex technical problems, and unpicking the inner workings of computers, smartphones and the apps they run. Our best work ought, therefore, to have a kernel of enjoyment at its core; a soft centre of genuine pleasure taken in the activity itself that alleviates the struggles and stresses that inherently emerge when we pour our hearts and souls into an endeavour.

Social impact

Alain de Botton posits that work feels meaningful ‘whenever it allows us to generate delight or reduce suffering in others.’

Many forms of work have a positive impact on a specific person, groups of people, or society more broadly. Some forms of work – such as social care or charity work – are very directly socially beneficial, whereas others – such as writing code that powers restaurant PoS systems – are more commercially driven, whilst still deriving their commercial value from an improvement they make in people’s lives (in this instance, the working lives of restaurant staff and the dining experience of their customers.)

Some forms of work – such as credit card fraud or drug dealing – are generally regarded to have a negative social value and, as such, are outlawed. Such vocations both reduce delight and elevate suffering in their “customers.” Other forms of work are have their social value hotly contested; so, while industries like gambling are not banned outright, they are heavily regulated, and perceived by many workers as incompatible with their personal values (others, however, view the entertainment value provided to consenting adults as full social justification for the industry). This contested status of gambling perhaps stems from the fact that, while it frequently generates delight for its clientele, it can also greatly increase their suffering.

Whatever line of work you are in, it can help to reflect on the social value it provides, and to what extent this aligns with your own values. Or, in a more formulaic ‘do Bottonian” sense, the extent to which it either generates delight or reduces suffering.

It is, however, an observable phenomenon that work with high social impact tends to be poorly compensated, and that work which generates delight tends, on the whole, to pay better than work that reduces suffering. Film and sports stars are paid exponentially more than nurses and social workers. The creators of social networks, e-commerce giants and streaming platforms out-earn those of edtech or digital health services.

This alludes to one of the thorniest problems at the heart of theories of work itself: that over the course of the 20th Century, the “economic problem” posited by economist John Maynard Keynes (i.e., the scarcity of resources required for survival) has, as he predicted, been largely solved by Western capitalist economies, but that, contrary to his prediction, this hasn’t reduced the amount people in these economies work. If anything – given the greater participation in the workforce of women over the period, and a tendency towards longer working hours – the opposite has happened. Technology enables most of the West’s material requirements to be provided relatively cheaply, but we work harder than ever.

A balanced mix

The ingredients in the mixing pot that combine to create our best work fall into two categories: extrinsic factors such as money, prestige, and influence; and intrinsic factors that give us a sense of fulfilment, challenge, self-development, enjoyment, and of benefit to the society around us.

Balancing the precise mixture of these ingredients is a unique challenge for every individual. Some will be more motivated by money, others by power and influence. Some are disinterested in these entirely, and will gravitate towards work that has the greatest social impact over all other forms.

This essay is intended part as a checklist, but more as an invitation and guide to self-reflection; a sounding board against which feelings of disquiet and aspiration towards current and imagined lines of work can be compared, in the hope that more people the world over can find their own best work.Find personalised resources on cord

References and further reading

It’s OK To Hate Recruiters

First published on LinkedIn November 2015

I was chatting last weekend to a friend who works as a project manager at a digital agency renowned for not using recruitment agencies. They basically brand themselves on it. A typical call to them is usually answered “Hello, we don’t work with agencies, how can I help you?”

I asked him why they’re so intent on not using agencies, which seemed bizarre given that they are an agency, and the service provider concept is fundamentally the same whether you’re supplying marketing campaigns or software developers. I was told – matter-of-factly – that “you use a lot of really underhand tactics to get hold of people”.

Do I now? Thanks for letting me know. As a project manager you presumably exceed your budgets and fail to meet your deadlines, while alienating everyone in your team with your Machiavellian approach to leadership.

I know the guy well, and I know he’s too intelligent to apply that kind of blanket generalisation in everyday life. So I was too surprised and, to be honest, amused to come up with a response as apt as the above paragraph on the spot, or point out the obviously flawed, baby-bathwater logic that underpinned it. I can’t actually remember how I responded – being a recruiter I imagine I consoled myself by checking my bank balance and cackling sadistically.

Which leads me onto this article, which was passed around work last week. It’s a decent read – lazy stereotyping, dogmatic vitriol and a social finesse reminiscent of Linus Torvalds in his less diplomatic moments notwithstanding. The last thing I want to do is defend the kind of recruiters the writer condemns, personified by the piece’s antihero “Shithead”. Anyone familiar with the concept of Rec-to-Rec will know that being a recruiter does not make you immune from recruiters – I get all the same spam emails and LinkedIn messages you do (and because it’s important for me to make my contact details public, I probably get a lot more cold calls to my desk than you do – that’s annoying). For the record I always send polite “No thanks” responses to well-written, individually-tailored messages because I know first-hand the time and effort that goes into writing them.

What I would like to do is point out a few reasons why it’s inevitable, given the role we’re performing, that the recruitment industry as a whole will always piss people off. You’re right to hate recruiters. It’s OK to hate recruiters, and to the verbal genius who penned Don’t Feed the Beast I’d say I didn’t take any of it personally (I’d add, of course, that I know where you live). The article however follows current fashion in overlooking a few important points about what it takes to be not just a good as in “ethical” recruiter, but also a good as in “successful” recruiter – which leads to a very widespread misconception concisely summarised in the phrase “they are not incentivised to act honestly”.

Recruitment consultants are effectively sales consultants, which in the good old days (before Management Speak really got its act together) were called middlemen. It’s a matter of opinion whether or not sales consultants generally are a good or a bad thing, but there’s an important distinction in play for recruiters which a colleague of mine, on my first day in my company, explained neatly: “this is the only sales job where the thing you’re selling can say no”. Shithead and the other morons hackerfall slams can’t force anyone to take a job they don’t want, no matter how much they’d like to.

Let’s for now park the debate over whether recruitment agents have any sense of empathy, morality or professional ethics – I could write an entire article on that – and for simplicity’s sake go with the assumption that they don’t and are to a person feckless, money-driven moral degenerates. As sales consultants, their job is to mediate between prospective buyers and prospective sellers, in crowded markets where specialist knowledge and tools are needed to help the two find each other. As recruiters, they’re mediating between a company that wants to hire and a person that wants to work, and representing both simultaneously.

Think about that. The two parties can have widely divergent interests. Jobseekers want the funnest jobs, the shortest hours and the most on-the-job training, with the highest salary possible. Companies want the most diligent, talented, innately-motivated people for as cheap as possible. Our job is to mediate between these two extremes of expectation and find matches that benefit both parties. In individual cases, and for good recruiters more often than not, the match exceeds what both parties were hoping for in the first place. But no market is perfect, least of all recruitment, and our industry exists as a professional punching bag for employees and employers to vent their frustrations on – the client’s minimal, unhelpful feedback is our fault to the candidate, the perfect candidate’s ludicrous salary expectations are our fault to the client. Across the board, we bear the brunt of the opposed interests of the two groups we represent, each of which will look at the balance of our industry as a whole and say “They’re not doing a good job”. Who can blame them?

If the perception of recruiters as a whole is then unavoidably negative, the onus is on individual recruiters to rise above the rest. This brings us back to the earlier point about what we’re selling. Companies keep coming back to agencies when they need to hire quickly, or hire specific niche skill sets, and when agencies do it right they get repeat business. I’ve since learned that what we sell isn’t a person – this would be human trafficking and illegal – but a relationship. Essentially, trust. To be a successful recruiter it’s crucial to build trust, both with candidates and clients.

As above, no recruiter can force anyone to take a job. With Glassdoor and other similar sites, the amount of information available on prospective employers is almost infinite. If I lied to a candidate about what a company is like, they’d find out quickly and would neither take the job nor work with me again. So why bother? Trying to talk someone into a job they don’t want is not only unethical, it’s pointless hard work that saps not just their time but mine as well. When your time is worth as much as mine and Shithead’s, you don’t waste any of it. Good (successful) recruiters only put people forward for jobs they’re genuinely interested in in the first place. Yes, from then on your job is to make the offer as appealing to them as possible – but to be successful in the long run this can only be done by presenting relevant information accurately. Recruiters who lie to candidates to make them take offers don’t last. They also miss out on the one bit of the job that is most satisfying and completely unique: the genuine gratitude you get from someone you’ve just found the dream job for. I can’t think of any other profession that offers that.

Clients equally will only work with recruiters they trust – they pay us to find qualified people that want the job they’re offering, not to waste their time. If the first few people you place aren’t up to it, or realise it’s been mis-sold and leave after a few months, you lose trust and you lose the client. Nothing is more valuable to us than a reliable client who trusts us and offers a constant stream of roles we understand and know how to source. I see lots of agencies marketing themselves on the massive percentage of their turnover derived from new business. I always think they must do a terrible job if so few companies want to come back to them. Most service providers pride themselves on the amount of repeat business they generate, and recruitment shouldn’t be any different.

Like all companies any recruitment agency exists somewhere along the spectrum between high-volume, low-quality offerings – “Spam and Send” recruitment, Shithead’s forté– and high-quality, low-volume models that invest more time and training in their staff. In my previous post I discussed how the recruitment landscape has changed since the UK employment market recovered from the crash. In the aftermath of the crisis, with jobs in short supply, spam-and-send worked for a lot of recruitment companies that now dominate the scene, since the market was so short on jobs that developers responded to generic mass-marketing emails. They had to.

With the recovery, and the resulting saturation of channels like LinkedIn, jobseekers are now in a position where they can tell mass-marketing recruiters where to stick their generic advances. The REC’s latest report shows that larger companies (35 + branches) make on average, per branch, less permanent placements, at lower per-placement fees, than smaller companies (1-9 branches). Shithead and his kind are losing market share using an approach which prompts angry reactions in the very people they hope to build trust with, and they aren’t trained to do otherwise. There are still a lot of these recruiters out there, but that’s changing.

So hackerfall, and my PM friend and your digital agency – don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Every decent recruiter I know loves the buzz of finding someone their dream job as much as, if not more than, they value the commission they get for it. Despite this, whether or not individual recruiters have a well-calibrated moral compass (the answer, as in all industries, is that some do and some don’t) the nature of our job, being positioned between employees’ and employers’ interests and representing both at once, means it’s inevitable you’ll hate us as a group. And that’s OK.