Google’s pay gaps and disparities have been in the news since employees took matters into their own hands. In 2015, employees informally began collecting their salary data, which was published in 2017. The survey revealed significant gender and race pay disparities. Bryce Covert of the New York Times writes that after denying for years that it had a gender pay gap and refusing to make its pay data public, Google was embarrassed by its employees into instituting an annual pay equity analysis. In March 2019, Google announced the results of this year’s analysis. Covert reports, “It gave most of the raises to adjust for unequal practices to men.” This was a surprise to many. In 2016, the Department of Labor (DOL) found that Google had “systematic” disparities, which were described as “quite extreme.” Women at Google cried foul about the new pay analysis and protested that it left out important information:
- The annual pay review compared only people within the same job categories.
- Women are “hired into lower-tier and lower-paid positions while men start in higher-level jobs with higher pay brackets.”
In other words, the analysis was not comparing whether women and men were hired in the appropriate job categories. It is a flawed and incomplete analysis.
Covert notes that Google continues to refuse to release all of its pay data publicly or to the DOL for analysis, making it difficult to know the real situation with its pay gap. In 2016, President Barack Obama proposed a rule that would require all companies with one hundred or more employees to collect and report pay by race and gender. When President Donald Trump took over the White House, however, he stopped this rule from going into effect. In March 2019, a federal judge ruled that the Trump administration had failed to prove its argument that the rule created an undue burden on companies. She ordered the government to move forward with implementing the rule and cleared the way for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to start requiring companies to collect and report their pay data. Google, along with all other employers with more than one hundred employees is now required to fully disclose pay data, and the public will get to see it.
Transparency is important if the stubborn pay gap is ever going to be closed. American women who work full time make 20 percent less than men. Some experiences with pay transparency are instructive and encouraging:
- A study in Denmark found that requiring pay transparency reduced the gender wage gap.
- A review of British workplace surveys found that pay transparency raised the wages of all employees.
- Studies in the United States found that pay gaps are smaller in public sector and unionized workplaces where pay scales are available to anyone.
On another front, in November 2018, after twenty thousand Google employees walked off the job
to protest sexual harassment policies and practices,
Google agreed to stop requiring forced arbitration in sexual harassment and assault cases. Daisuke Wakabayashi
of the New York Times
writes that in March 2019, Google did away with all
forced arbitration agreements and is now dropping the requirement in employment contracts for all employees—including temporary and contract workers. This is a huge victory for the Google employees who banded together to organize the 2018 walkout.
But, alas, Google still has a culture that protects high-ranking executives credibly accused of sexual harassment and rewards them with big payouts. Wakabayashi reports that most recently, a shareholder lawsuit
revealed that the board of directors of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, agreed to pay as much as $45 million to a top Google executive accused of groping a subordinate. In October 2018, a $90 million payout to a different executive accused of sexual harassment sparked the 2018 walkout.
Between federal court rulings requiring pay transparency, employee activism, and shareholder lawsuits, Google may yet be dragged kicking and screaming into becoming an equitable and ethical organization. Let’s not forget though that this is just the tip of the corporate iceberg. These are baby steps—but in the right direction.
Photo courtesy of https://www.istockphoto.com/photo/young-woman-programming-at-her-home-office-gm874016084-244060556]]>