If you didn’t read my last week’s blog, allow me to summarize: Boulder may be in line to become the next, Silicon Valley-esque, tech-driven national economy. With that comparison comes a dangerous truth: Boulder could be facing what the technology giants in Santa Clara are experiencing themselves: massive gaps between men and women’s incomes. And without attention paid to this issue, Boulder could be following in these same footsteps.


Santa Clara’s pay gap is large and it is concerning when you begin to compare what Boulder could become due to this similar technology boom. Nevertheless, amid the wave of tech startups swelling downtown, there is a unique, location-specific combination of worker age and industry in play that could lend a helping hand towards keeping the colossal Santa Clara income gap scenario at bay.

Women in the technology industry are seeing an income that's in par with the men in their same industry. (photo by / Volkan Omez on Unsplash.com)

Women in the technology industry are seeing an income that’s in par with the men in their same industry. (photo by / Volkan Omez on Unsplash.com)

According to a 2014 analysis of U.S. Census Bureau figures by NerdWallet, Boulder had the fifth-largest and fastest rise in gender pay gap among U.S. cities between 2007 and 2012, a 29 percent bloat in what men are taking home compared to women.


That statistic is discouraging in the fight to close the income differences and a reminder for the dangerous truth Boulder is facing, and somewhat shocking, though not terribly surprising when looking at the trend Silicon Valley has set. However, after sifting through many reports, there seems to be a silver lining found in Boulder’s particular economic boom and gender culture that’s growing – and somewhat already exists – today. The specific rise being seen of the tech industry, compared to some of the other industries seen in Boulder, may have a big perk for women in challenging this “fifth-largest rise” statistic.


Within the data collected, Claudia Goldin, a Harvard University labor economist and expert on women and the economy, found that in the technology industry, female computer scientists are making 89 percent of what men in the same job make when controlling for age, race, hours worked, and education. That’s significantly higher than both the 71 percent seen in the medical industry and the paltry 65 percent in the financial sector.


The “computer science” title for females in Goldin’s findings cover much more than just technology sciences. It’s factoring in many aligning tech jobs, from engineering to programming, and across many tech-infused industries. And that’s good for Boulder’s sake. The many different types of technology jobs available and being created in Boulder, as a whole, could say that at the very least–according to Goldin’s study–Boulder is booming in the right industry. One that already shows a high success rate in diminishing the gender pay gap.


But the unique combination that is setting Boulder apart from, Silicon Valley-like gaps requires more than a booming industry present, because more important than industry is age of workers. A common trait found in places like Silicon Valley is a firm belief in youth. The City of Boulder is young at heart and demographic – a median age of 28, which adds some youth to the already low state median age of 36. An important piece of the pie to recognize, since that median age bracket is significantly made up of millennials, which are here and have more coming; the millennials are people born between 1982 and 2002, who are going to be in or are already present in the local workforce. The same workforce that will run this tech boom and follow suit as the replacement team for the Baby Boomers who are now officially all over the age of 50 and closing in on retirement.


Compound that into a larger scope that goes into an astounding figure that by 2025, nearly 75 percent of the Nation’s workforce will be from this Millennial Generation, which means the local economy is going to be in optimistically good hands for closing the gap. Boulder’s workforce is currently and will be constantly flooded with college graduates from neighboring universities, which directly adds to the number of these millennials present in the local economy and consequently, adding to the generation’s impact on gender pay gaps that may persist here in town.

Mergelane, a new startup accelerator in Boulder, Co., offers a  program for women led companies. One example towards how Boulder's progressive attitude can become aimed at the gender pay gap issue.

MergeLane, a new startup accelerator in Boulder, Co., offers a program for only women led companies. One example for how Boulder’s progressive tech industry boom, helped by booster programs, like TechStars Boulder or BoomTown, can become aimed to help the gender pay gap issue for women, by women.


What makes this median age and generation so special, say compared to Silicon Valley, when combined with the tech industry present here in Boulder: millennial women, frankly, just do not believe in, more consciously recognize, gender pay gaps. Silicon Valley is an existing culture that would be very hard to redirect towards closing that gap; Boulder’s boom is brand new and can be shaped into almost anything from this point on.


Knowing the local community is largely made up of and will continue on for some time with millennial women in the economy, these millennial women’s philosophy has become mind over matter and a pursuit to beat the old odds of being underpaid from the get-go, which can be the future of this issue’s demise. In today’s age, those women earn higher, more complex degrees and are attaining greater skills than men. They already have begun fighting the gender pay gap battle, some for the last decade.


And a feat that fight has been… Its been astronomical. According to a new Pew Research Center study, women ages 18 to 32 made 93 cents to every dollar men made in 2012. That’s a climb from the old gap of 77 cents to the dollar, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Historically compared, they are the first modern generation of women careerists to start off their work lives on par with men’s salaries.


For Boulder, millennial women are a strong representation of the overall workforce and have a very big set of cards to play as this tech boom continues on. Nationally, as we keep trying to narrow the gaps women face in the workplace, Boulder begins to shake hands with this distinctive generation and youthful workforce that is sprouting up around the tech industry boom. This powerful combination of worker age and industry gives Boulder a chance to possibly provide a base camp for young women to pursue higher pay, break bounds for the gender pay gap, and make serious ground in stunning the ‘fifth-largest statistic.’


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