Exploring gender and compensation



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Now more than ever, it seems, industries are acutely aware of wage gaps related to gender. The design industry is no exception. An earlier post on our blog about designer compensation garnered quite a bit of specific discussion about the differences in pay for male versus female designers, so let’s dive a bit deeper.

To set the stage, we must note that this report included responses from 1,211 men and 446 women, a roughly 3:1 ratio.


According to the report, gender can be a factor of significance when it comes to where one chooses to work. Our total survey breakdown was 3:1 male to female, but at agencies, the breakdown is closer to 4:1. Men are also far more likely to report working as freelancers and on a contractual basis. The ratio narrows every so slightly at startups.

“Women designing at education orgs earn almost $10k less than men.”

The gender breakdown narrows more for in-house/small business designers, where the ratio comes out to about 2:1 male to female. It’s closest at government and education organizations, clocking in at 1.5 men for every woman.

The specific design roles men and women specialize in also reveal quite a bit of variance. Men are far more likely to report working as developers, coders, industrial designers, and product designers. The areas where men and women are more evenly represented include information architecture, marketing design, and usability testing.


While salaries for men versus women differed on average only slightly, with women averaging $76,014 and men averaging $77,112, a closer look at where designers work revealed far larger gaps.

Men and women in agencies, startups, and government organizations were closest in salary. At education organizations, though, women averaged almost $10,000 less than men, and on in-house/small business teams, women averaged about $8,000 less annually. Female freelancers/contractual designers reported making about $9,000 less than their male counterparts.

“Startups are the only work environment in which women make more than men.”

Startups were the only work environment where women reported making more (about $2,000) than men.

Of note is that women were also more likely than men to have a higher degree. Nearly 72% of women held at least a bachelor’s, compared to 56% of men.

Want to see more? Dive into the 2016 Product Design Report.


Kayleigh Karutis
Kayleigh got her start as a news reporter, and she still considers that time she wrote the entire paper among her greatest achievements.

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