Analysis of Gender Bias in 2008 Salary Survey

By Pragmatic Institute January 22, 2009

[Originally posted at Tyner Blain blog]

A related analysis showed the distribution of total compensation. This article takes a more detailed look at gender differences in compensation.


Salary Distribution by Product Manager Sex

When splitting the data into compensation for women and men, we see the following:


The graph shows two things - more men responded than women, and themen that responded to the survey reported higher total compensationthan the women. We should not (yet) jump to the conclusion that men statisticallytend to earn more than women in product management roles. It may betrue, but we have to acknowledge that other factors might influence thedata.

Product Manager Compensation and Age

One trend that “feels true” is that older people earn more thanyounger people. As long as people enter the workforce at roughly thesame time, and as long as raises are larger than increases in startingsalary, this will hold true. The following chart shows the reportedages of the product managers that responded to the survey:


This distribution shows that there is a wide range of ages among thepopulation of product managers that reported total compensation datafor 2008. Perhaps a higher percentage of the older respondentsare male (and with higher salaries that correlate to their ages),explaining the disparity from the first graph.

The next diagram shows product manager compensation versus age. Thediagram also shows the sex of each respondent - red “O” symbols forwomen, and blue “X” symbols for men. We’ve also applied linearregressions to the data - showing the overall trends in compensationversus age. The blue trend lines are for male respondents, the redtrend lines are for female respondents.


The trend lines that are drawn show the linear regression as well asthe +/- 95% lines. You can see validation that total compensation doestend to climb with the age of the product managers. The trend linesshow that compensation for female product managers is lower than thatof male product managers, as a function of the product manager’s age.

Since the trends are so visibly different, we can conclude that evenif more older males responded to the survey, it does not really matter- the trend lines show a disparity across the reported age range.

Product Manager Compensation and Experience

While a trend of “the older you are, the more you make” feelsaccurate (and the data also suggests it), a trend of “the moreexperience you have, the more you make” also seems logical. When allother things are equal, a more experienced product manager is likely tobe more effective than a less experienced product manager. What doesthe data show?

An older product manager is also likely to have more experience. The following diagram shows age versus experience as reported byproduct managers in Pragmatic Institute’s 2008 survey.


The blue X symbols represent male responses, and the red O symbolsdepict female responses. There appear to be more responses fromexperienced product managers than inexperienced product managers - bothfor men and women. The following diagram shows the frequency ofresponses by reported experience.


There are definitely more responses from more experienced productmanagers. And there are disproportionately more male responses amongthe more experienced product managers. If compensation correlatesstrongly to experience, that could explain the distribution variancewithin the overall population.

Product Manager Compensation Versus Experience

The previous two graphs give us insight into the ages and experiencelevels of both male and female responses. The following diagram showsthe reported total product manager compensation by years of experience.


There is a visible trend that shows average compensation increasingwith years of experience. The grey “+” symbols represent each response(total compensation) at each experience level. There are also green,red, and blue lines showing connecting the average total compensationat each experience level (for everyone, women, and men, respectively).

The disparity seems to be the most pronounced in the 11-15 years ofexperience range. Zooming in on that data, we see the following:


There is a clear difference in the compensation levels for male andfemale product managers having 11-15 years of experience. At otherexperience levels, the disparity is reduced or reversed. There is alsoa significant disparity for respondents that reported zero years ofexperience, albeit with far fewer respondents.


I don’t believe that we can extrapolate from this data to reachcrisp conclusions, but we can definitely acknowledge a disparity in thecompensation levels reported by respondents to the 2008 survey. Generalization is dangerous, when looking at sampled data - especiallywhen the respondents self-select for participation. Sometimes, that’sthe best information we have, however - and it seems reasonable to formsuspicions from the data. I suspect that the data doesindicate inequality in the compensation of men and women in the productmanagement role. The data does also indicate that product managercompensation increases correlate both with product manager age andexperience.

Scott Sehlhorst has been helping companies achieve Software Product Success for more than a decade. Scott consults as a business architect, business analyst, and product manager. He has also worked as a technical consultant, developer, project manager, and program manager. Scott has managed teams from 5 to 50 persons, and has delivered millions of dollars in value to his customers. Contact Scott at, or join in on the Tyner Blain blog.

Pragmatic Institute

Pragmatic Institute

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