Who Pays the Most, and Least, in Silicon Valley?
How much do workers at tech firms make?
The answer varies a lot, depending on the employer. The median employee at Amazon made $28,446 last year, according to new disclosures required by the Securities and Exchange Commission. At Facebook, the median employee made $240,430, more than eight times as much.
There are reasons for the big disparity, of course: Facebook’s 25,000 employees include many software engineers, which it must recruit in the expensive and competitive San Francisco Bay Area. Most of Amazon’s 566,000 employees work in its distribution centers, including many overseas; in the US, Amazon says the average hourly wage in its distribution centers is more than $15 an hour, which translates to slightly more than $30,000 a year, before overtime.
Other disparities reflect differences in companies’ businesses, and business models. As a car maker, Tesla says 26 percent of its employees are production workers and 18 percent are outside the US. The company reported median employee pay of $54,816. Tesla says its employees also have benefited from increases in the company’s share price. IBM, which has aggressively moved jobs overseas in recent years, reported median pay of $54,491. The New York Times reported in September that IBM now has more employees in India than in the US. An IBM spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment.
Even within the same tech sector, median pay can vary significantly based on a company’s business model. Intel, the largest US maker of semiconductors by revenue, makes its own chips. Three of its six manufacturing sites are in the US, as are half of its 102,000 employees. The company reported median pay of $102,100. Nvidia, whose graphics chips are used widely for machine learning and artificial intelligence, reported median pay of $147,640. The company contracts out the manufacturing of its chips and has only about 8,200 employees. A spokesperson says half of Nvidia’s employees are in the “highly competitive” Silicon Valley market, and that its employees are “highly skilled, college educated, and have deep expertise–all of which command a premium in the market.”
The median pay figures underscore that intense competition for tech talent in the Bay Area. Nationally, the average pay for software developers and programmers is $102,470, according to the US Labor Department. Bay Area tech firms are paying considerably more: The median pay at Workday, which makes software that helps businesses manage finances and people, is $178,903, according to its proxy statement. At Salesforce, another business-software maker, it’s $155,284; and at payments processor Square, it’s $152,265.
Companies are disclosing the median pay of employees for the first time this year under a new SEC rule intended to shine a light on the high pay of CEOs. The rule took effect for fiscal years ending Dec. 31, 2017 or later, so companies on different fiscal calendars, including Apple, Microsoft, and Oracle, won’t report their median-pay figures until later this year.
Companies have to report the ratio of the pay of their CEOs to the median pay of their employees. The Wall Street Journal reported that Marathon Petroleum CEO Gary Heminger was paid $19.7 million last year, or 935 times the $21,034 pay of the company’s median worker.
The ratios are less meaningful for big tech companies because many of their CEOs are founders who own large chunks of the company and receive only nominal compensation. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey received no compensation, according to the company’s proxy statement. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Google parent Alphabet’s Larry Page each were paid $1. Zuckerberg’s reported compensation also included $8.8 million for company- provided security services and travel on company planes. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos was paid a salary of $81,840, as he has been annually since 1998; his compensation included $1.6 million for security services paid by the company.