Madison, Milwaukee rank near bottom on list of best cities for women in tech

"Having a more innovative approach to innovation and problem solving could really help gain more interest in technology,” UW expert says

· Mar 23, 2021 Tweet

Jeff Miller/UW Communications

A study conducted by the Milwaukee Business Journal found Madison and Milwaukee ranked near the bottom on a list of best major cities for women in technology.

The report, which featured 63 cities, slotted Milwaukee at No. 43 and Madison at No. 59.

According to the Milwaukee Business Journal, the research was conducted by SmartAsset, a financial technology company that provides financial advising. The study observed the gender pay gap, earnings after housing, the percentage of women in the technology workforce and employment growth in tech after three years in each city. In each category, Madison and Milwaukee underperformed most other cities.

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The article by SmartAsset said in each city they observed a gender pay gap existed in technology, writing, “while tech is often considered a progressive industry, our study shows that women on average make 83 cents for every dollar that is earned by their male counterparts.”

SmartAsset found that, compared to men, women in Milwaukee made roughly 84 cents on the dollar and women in Madison made 80 cents on the dollar.

UW School of Human Ecology assistant professor Marianne Fairbanks said she is not surprised by the existing wage gap in technology.

“[This is] a reminder of all our previous time giving more opportunities to men instead of women,” Fairbanks said.

The SmartAsset study described their motivation for studying the opportunity gap for women in technology as a desire to shed light on the disparity in wages and the subsequent impact of such discrepancies on a woman in tech’s ability to save for retirement and cover daily expenses such as housing.

Fairbanks said though the technology industry experienced substantial progress in the past several years by narrowing the gender gap in certain fields, she believes it is unrealistic to have an equal system as today because sexism is currently heavily ingrained into the industry’s hiring practices.

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Fairbanks also said she does not find Madison and Milwaukee’s low ratings for women in technology shocking because though they are larger urban centers, they are not as progressive as metropolitan areas in states like California or Virginia, and she believes there is a fear of cultural change present.

“I think it has to do with the intimidation factor,” Fairbanks said.

Fairbanks said the current landscape makes it difficult for women to be involved in technology, but she sees an opportunity for growth.

Fairbanks said as opposed to focusing on the areas of gender equality in technology where progress is limited thus far, energy should be allocated toward working to develop innovative opportunities for women in the industry, pointing out what she described as a need to expand on practical technology classes and fields. 

“We sometimes can reframe what technology is. Technology in my opinion is anything that advances life on this planet … having a more innovative approach to innovation and problem solving could really help gain more interest in technology,” Fairbanks said.

Program Director for Engineering Professional Development at the UW College of Engineering Marty Gustafson said she is encouraged by the fact that, at the higher education level, women are entering engineering at the same rate as men.

Gustafson said strong representation of women exists in the health field, and gender pay gaps in both engineering and healthcare has decreased in recent years. Gustafson said Madison’s current split between women and men in technology is the highest it’s been in decades.

Fairbanks said the existing job market is fairly robust for women in technology after graduating college because a wide variety of job opportunities exist in the technology workforce.

Fairbanks argued in favor of expanding the existing definition of “tech,” to incorporate more working women into the technology umbrella and said the existing gap in pay and lack of representation for women in the industry can be solved through innovative solutions.


This article was published Mar 23, 2021 at 11:15 am and last updated Mar 22, 2021 at 9:35 pm


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