IAPP Finds No Salary Gender Gap Among Privacy Professionals

Kachina Shaw

One influential profession, focused on the intersection of technology and policy, is a bright spot in the examination of gaps in pay for males and females in tech-related fields. The 2015 Privacy Professional Salary Survey, conducted by the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP), found that compensation levels for men and women in the field are very close. Further, the survey found that the small gap was even smaller for those possessing privacy certifications.

Trevor Hughes, IAPP president and CEO, says the organization has been annually benchmarking compensation as a tool for its members for some time, and always collected data about gender, but never found the results to be remarkable. This year, with heavier industry focus on salaries for men and women in IT, the IAPP salary survey dug deeper to better understand gender in the privacy profession.

“We found remarkable parity, almost 50-50 in the raw numbers, up through the ranks,” Hughes explains, “the salaries were, within statistical deviation, essentially not distinguishable.”

Depending on the breakdown, women in the survey of 1,253 IAPP members sometimes came out ahead. For instance, women surveyed in the U.S. make a median salary of 96 cents to the dollar for men; women in Europe make $1.10 to the dollar for men. And possessing privacy-specific certifications evened the balance more.

The profession is almost evenly split between men and women, and men in the U.S. make a median salary of $130,000, while women make a median salary of $125,000. Among certified professionals, men make a median salary of $135,000 compared to $132,500 for women.

Several attributes of the privacy profession contribute to these results, says Hughes. It is a relatively young field, professionals come from a broad array of backgrounds – 40 percent are lawyers – and it just has less baggage.

“The field of privacy is a hybrid field, and there is a plurality of professions within it. We see law, IT, audit and compliance skills. And the privacy professionals didn’t bring with them the baggage of other professionals. There’s no glass ceiling, no entrenched male hierarchy. Men and women compete and succeed on their merits, so in that regard, we see what we expect to see.”

Whatever the individual’s background, mastering the core skills is of course important for career success, says Hughes, and those are starting to crystallize in more ways. He cites skill sets in data audits, measurement and metrics and law and policy as key, and notes that related certifications are appearing more often in job descriptions. At the same time, more privacy law and data protection classes are being built into computer science programs, like Carnegie Mellon University’s Master’s for Privacy Engineers, as well as law programs across the country.

The 2015 survey found that women in the U.S. are 33 percent more likely to have a seat in the C-suite than men, and the levels between genders for VP, legal counsel and director positions were very close. That all bodes well for strong career growth potential for all privacy professionals, male or female, says Hughes.

“The IAPP has 23,000 members in 80 countries. It took 12 years to hit the first 10,000, and then three more years to hit the next 13,000. So that growth curve is accelerating. We expect to add 5,000 this year, and are seeing jobs that previously didn’t exist and new opportunities.”

The IAPP currently has 10,000 certifications in the marketplace, and Hughes says he expects to give tests for about 6,500 more this year.

The one survey slice that revealed a salary gap was among the 15 percent of individuals who have 15 years or more of experience in the field, where the men were found to be making an average of $181,000 annually compared to $156,300 for women, That, says Hughes, may be an anomaly and the result of very few IAPP members working within the field for that amount of time. The question, he says, will be examined in future surveys to ascertain the causes.

So, for those who are thinking this all sounds pretty good, what career advice does Hughes have, based on his 13 years of experience with the IAPP and the privacy profession?

“The first steps are to get smart, and network like crazy. As far as the IAPP, we have tons of programs available, we have 60 chapters, and a great many conferences where you can rub elbows with the great and mighty in the field. The big message, and it’s a very powerful message, is that people are succeeding on their merits in this field, and we’re excited about that. It’s a next-generation digital career that continues to explode. It doesn’t get easier, it gets more complicated, and the risks become more and more expensive for organizations to bear, but all of that makes it really compelling to pursue. This is a field where you will find some powerful and inspiring women. It’s a field that is waiting for the best work of both men and women.”

Kachina Shaw is managing editor for IT Business Edge and has been writing and editing about IT and the business for 15 years. She writes about IT careers, management, technology trends and managing risk. Follow Kachina on Twitter @Kachina and on Google+

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