Latinx Workers Face Greatest Pay Disparities in LA Tech Scene, Report Finds
While the predominantly young, white Los Angeles tech scene has made strides to improve diversity, deep inequities remain.
Women earn 78 cents for every dollar made by a male tech worker. Black and Latinx investors are underrepresented at venture firms and the majority of venture investments goes toward white and Asian-owned businesses, according to PledgeLA's survey of Los Angeles tech companies and venture firms released Wednesday.
"Tech oftentimes likes to think of itself as a very equal, egalitarian space," said Jasmine Hill, a UCLA sociology professor who analyzed the data for PledgeLA. "But the data shows something different."
The third annual report shows some improvement in representation but persistent pay disparities and lack of inclusion among L.A.'s tech scene.
The findings are based on self-reported data from 173 companies that have signed onto PledgeLA's initiative, including Bird, sweetgreen and Dollar Shave Club.
The report found Black and Latinx workers make less money than their peers. On average, East Asians made $120,000, South Asians made $100,000, white workers made $90,000, while Black and Latinx workers made $75,000 and $60,000 on average, respectively — a disparity shared even at higher levels of experience.
Employees who identify as LGBTQ+ and employees with disabilities responded that they "cover" a part of their identities at work, and said they "felt the need to avoid conversations about their identity at work."
"We're paid – and I'm saying 'we're' because I'm Black – significantly less than our white, Asian counterparts," said Qiana Patterson, the chair of PledgeLA. "And I think we all know that that's just not because Black and Latinx people don't have the degrees, or the experience, but that there's just bias embedded in our hiring practices."
Hill said the report is not representative of the entire L.A. tech scene because it only includes data from the participating PledgeLA companies. PledgeLA was able to get a higher participation rate from PledgeLA companies for its survey this year – from around 65% to around 81% – which allowed the nonprofit to break down earning data by race.
Other findings of the report include:
- Workers reported improvements in company culture and transparency in hiring. Workers at mid and large-sized companies also reported improvements.
- Though PledgeLA VCs predominantly funded white and Asian-owned businesses, they are more likely to fund female, Latinx and Black-owned businesses compared to the U.S. average.
- Investments to businesses with Black founders increased by 71% from 2020.
- Investors at PledgeLA VCs are predominantly white, though VCs reported increases in investors who identify as LGBTQ+ and investors with disabilities.
- Women earned an average of $20,000 less than men regardless of role or experience, and women who have over 20 years of experience earned $90,000 less than men with a similar level of experience.
- Nearly a third of workers reported feeling "neutral to very uncomfortable" when reporting workplace issues and nearly half said their coworkers were the source of improper conduct at work.
PledgeLA is hoping to carry the momentum built after the nation experienced a racial reckoning following the death of George Floyd in May 2020.
Calvin Selth, a program lead at Annenberg Tech, said he was encouraged to see lots of VCs and companies continue to support underrepresented groups after the summer of 2020 – shown by the increase in VC funding to Black founders – but emphasized the need for improvement.
"We're tracking this every year because we want to know that it's not a blip," Selth said. "I'm encouraged by more open dialogue about this, but I think there needs to be continued focus and more effort from VCs to track this kind of data themselves."
In addition collecting the data, PledgeLA hosts the PledgeLA Founders Fund, which gives $25,000 grants to Black and Latinx-owned businesses, and a VC internship program aimed at women, people of color and underrepresented groups.
PledgeLA also plans to raise $1 million in the next two years for the PledgeLA Founders Fund and is aiming to create a task force to help companies address racial and gender pay equity.
"The data itself is only as powerful as the action that we take," Patterson said. "And I hope that, in reading this analysis and the data around it, It spurs more people to sign the pledge, more people to be a part of this ecosystem in a meaningful and an intentional way."
Editor's note: dot.LA is a participant in PledgeLA and co-founder Spencer Rascoff sits on the board.
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In this episode of LA Venture, Julie Wroblewski talks about starting Magnify Ventures and helping modern families.
Wroblewski worked with Melinda French Gates to start Pivotal Ventures. For Wroblewski, it was her dream job as she got to lead venture capital investment strategy for five years. One of the focus areas at Pivotal was around caregiving innovation and American family homes.
Wroblewski cites a report from one of Magnify's partners that estimates the care economy at $648 billion in the United States, already larger than the pharmaceutical market. Wroblewski's fund is writing up to $2.5 million checks into companies that will transform life, work and care for modern families.
"I started to see what I thought was a very exciting and still overlooked category of investment in venture capital around the care economy, and family-focused technology and was also seeing a lot of flow and founders," said Wroblewski.
As an investor, she is particularly interested in tools like household optimization that help families be both more efficient and joyful. She also wants to let parents know they don't have to be experts. Technology can help give them access to what they need, when they need it.
"Technology is moving closer into our lives all the time and solving increasingly human, complex, difficult problems, including, how we care for and manage care for children and our loved ones--the things that are most personal to us," said Wroblewski.
"We've seen such a wave of technology innovation in the workplace. You know, we now use so many different tools to help increase our productivity at work, to improve our health and well being in some cases in the workplace," she added. "And I think we haven't yet seen the same sort of investment in innovation move into some areas of family life and household management. And so I think that that's going to change."
dot.LA Audience Engagement Intern Joshua Letona contributed to this post.
Pejman Nozad, a founding managing partner at Pear VC, joins this episode of LA Venture to discuss Pear VC's current initiatives, including its accelerator and fellowships. He's seen as one of the most successful angel investors in the area, and for good reason: he has made more than 300 investments in his lifetime.
"I'm a child of revolution and war and difficult times," said Nozad of his upbringing in Iran during the revolution.
Nozad went to college before dropping out. That's when his brother told him about his dream to go to America. After his brother was denied a visa multiple times, Nozad went himself to the embassy and got lucky; the woman in charge of the process liked him enough to approve him.
"When you're in [your] early twenties, you don't analyze much of the future. And then your risk-takers. I came to America in 1992 with $700 and I didn't speak any word of English," said Nozad.
Nozad went from working at a carwash, then a yogurt shop, to a (now famous) Persian rug store in Palo Alto. Many of his clients happened to be CEOs and venture capitalists; Nozad wanted to be part of that community.
"I was very lucky because I had access to people who normally nobody can see them, but I was hanging out with them at Sunday barbecues while selling carpets," said Nozad.
In his early days as an investor, Nozad bet on companies that included Dropbox and DoorDash. He said he took inspiration as a venture capitalist in lessons he learned from his time playing professional soccer in Iran.
"In soccer, you can score minute one, or you can score at minute 90. Both of them [are] one goal and you can win the game. So, when you go to fundraise, don't get disappointed if you hear a lot of nos, because the yes could be the last meeting after the whole two months," he said.
dot.LA Engagement Intern Joshua Letona contributed to this post.
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