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Silicon Valley salaries are shrinking, new data shows

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Krista DeWeese has been laid off four times in the last eight years. She wakes up every morning feeling anxious.

Will I lose my job today — again? Will I have enough to pay the rent?

Even though she’s an educated, experienced marketing professional, worrisome thoughts trail the 47-year-old Fremont native’s every waking moment. Currently a contract worker at a health science company, she has been struggling to find secure work that pays enough to keep up with the exorbitant cost of living in the Bay Area.

She has a lot of company. The past year has been tough for the Bay Area, as thousands of layoffs skittered across the region. Even workers at Silicon Valley’s tech titans — including Meta, Apple and Google — have faced job cuts. Since 2022, tech companies in the region have slashed roughly 40,000 jobs. And with each layoff, workers are entering a market that is less friendly to job seekers than it used to be.

New research from tech advocacy organization Women Impact Tech, which examined job and salary data nationwide from 2020 to 2023, affirmed what many people already know: companies are tightening their belts — slicing jobs and salaries alike — and many people are struggling to find work that pays enough to live comfortably in the Bay Area.

Despite having the highest tech salaries in the country, Silicon Valley has experienced the biggest drop in pay compared to other tech hubs, falling 15% from 2022 to 2023, according to Women Impact Tech.

And with inflation, DeWeese and others are watching their spending power shrink. More than 10 years ago, she was earning over $100,000 in total compensation. That amount has dropped 15% since she was laid off from Yahoo in 2016, and has not increased since.

“I feel like my career has been frozen in time,” DeWeese said. “Things have been at a standstill.”

A chart showing that salaries in the Bay Area tech sector decreased by 15% in 2023 from 2022; the biggest drop in the nation; but compared to other metropolitan areas in the country; the Bay Area still has the highest tech salaries overall.DeWeese has been cutting back where she can, but living by herself in a one-bedroom apartment in the suburbs of Silicon Valley with her adopted Border Collie mix, Sadie, while caring for her aging mother nearby, has taken its toll.

“I haven’t gone on vacation in a long time,” DeWeese said. “I take shorter showers; I’m conscious about electricity usage; I sometimes buy groceries at the dollar store.”

Paula Bratcher Ratliff, president of New York-based Women Impact Tech, said that the shrinking pay hits especially hard for women, given the continuing gender pay gap.

“The Bay Area took one of the largest hits,” Ratliff said. “Women make up about 28% of the entire workforce in tech. When you’re seeing an overall decline at 15%, and for pay equity, women have not made much traction.”

Across the United States, women still earn between 14% and 16% less than their male counterparts, Ratliff said.

“When you compound that, it’s not a good sign for women,” she said.

The experience of a fresh graduate trying to find work is just as daunting.

San Jose native Genevieve Richards graduated from Cornell University in 2022. After college, she landed an internship at a big tech firm on the Peninsula.

Richards said she applied to 300 jobs after her internship ended. While she landed some interviews for jobs in tech and public relations jobs, they offered progressively lower salaries, some as low $60,000, which she said would make it difficult to survive in the Bay Area.

“I decided to go to grad school abroad because I like Dublin, Ireland, and I was kind of trying to wait out the market,” Richards said. “There’s a lot more work-life balance (in Ireland). So, kind of for the same amount of struggle financially, I’m still able to travel and have free time.”

While she was able to find work quickly in Ireland, Richards is still hoping to return home eventually.

“I’d like come back to California, specifically the Bay Area, because I do feel like it’s my home,” she said. “But at this point, I’m not really sure. it depends on where the country ends up going.”

Los Gatos-based corporate recruiter Vikki Pachera, a former tech executive, said she’s observed tech companies offering lower compensation packages, but in exchange for greater flexibility, allowing some employees to work remotely from areas with lower living costs.

“Some of my current clients are offering what would be below-market salary in the Bay Area for those remote jobs, but they’re based elsewhere,” Pachera said.

Remote work, however, can be a “double-edged sword,” Pachera said. “You might have the freedom suddenly, but you might be competing (with others for the job) nationally, maybe even internationally.”

Despite the trend of shrinking salaries in the world’s tech capital, Ratliff, with Women Impact Tech, doesn’t believe it’s necessarily a race to the bottom.



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