Google is being sued for paying women less than men. So what’s new?

Not alone.
Not alone.
Image: Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon
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Three women, all former employees, filed a class action suit against Google on Sept. 14, alleging that women are paid less than men at the search giant and are routinely shoved into lower paying jobs despite excellent performance and qualifications. The suit follows one from the US Department of Labor, which is seeking pay data from Google in order to determine whether the company routinely pays women less than men.


Such accusations have become routine at tech companies, which are also beset with sexual harassment allegations. In 2015, an ex-Facebook employee, Chia Hong, sued her former company on the grounds of sex and race discrimination. (She later dropped the suit.) That same year, a former software engineer, Tina Huang, sued Twitter because she believed the company systematically bypassed women for promotions. Katie Moussouris, a former cyber-security analyst who now runs Luta Security, sued Microsoft in 2015 because she believed the company’s internal promotion system was rigged against women. This year, the Labor Department sued Oracle for discriminatory labor practices.

Google said in an email that “job levels and promotions are determined through rigorous hiring and promotion committees” and that it has checks in place to guard against gender bias. “Google has always sought to be a great employer, for every one of our employees,” said Gina Scigliano, a spokesperson for the company. The company is fighting the Labor Department over its pay data, citing cost and privacy concerns.

Still, the Google suit adds fodder to the notion that tech is no place for women. In February, Susan Fowler went public in a blog post about sexual harassment at Uber, leading the company to conduct an internal investigation headed by former US attorney general Eric Holder. This piled on to Uber’s reputation for aggressive, rule-breaking choices. Travis Kalanick, then CEO of Uber, was caught on video berating an Uber driver, and the company faced federal allegations of using cyber technology to mask itself from authorities. Coupled with Fowler’s revelations, the series of events forced Kalanick to resign.

Just this week, online lending start-up Social Finance said its CEO would depart at the end of the year after a former employee sued for allegedly being fired because he reported observing sexual harassment at the company. According to the New York Times, which interviewed more than 30 former and current SoFi employees, the company’s culture, adopted from Wall Street, was like a “frat house,” with employees having sex in their cars in the parking lot.

Getting ahead in tech for women has been difficult, regardless of corporate cultures. Women hold 37% of entry-level roles at tech companies, according to a McKinsey report. But according to company filings with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, fewer than 20% of the executives at Apple, Microsoft, or Google are female. At Google, 31% of the overall workforce is female, but women hold only 20% of the technical roles.

The lawsuits will likely not stop, and that’s a good thing. Silicon Valley’s sexism has long been treated as an industry reality, one that women should swallow. But as more men are ousted by women coming forward, even more women are going public with their stories.

Perhaps what’s most surprising is that women still want to work at tech firms at all.