Google says it was underpaying men, not women

Google has a gender pay gap, but it’s not what you think.
Google has a gender pay gap, but it’s not what you think.
Image: REUTERS/Thomas Peter
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Google’s gender pay gap isn’t what you think.

In the process of investigating whether it underpaid women and minorities, the technology giant discovered that more men than women were receiving the short-end of the pay stick for similar work, the New York Times reported. Google then paid out an additional $9.7 million in compensation to 10,677 employees for 2018, with a disproportionate amount of that going to men.

Google reviews pay equity every year, its lead analyst for pay equity Lauren Barbato said in a memo shared with employees in January and made public today (March 4). The 2018 review included a record 91% of Google employers (“Googlers,” in company lingo), Barbato wrote, and this was the first year the analysis included new hires and more entry-level positions. New hires alone accounted for nearly half of the funds spent on compensation adjustments, Barbato wrote.

Google’s pay practices came under fire in January 2017 when it was sued by the US Department of Labor for refusing to hand over certain compensation data as part of a routine audit. A few months later, the labor department claimed to have “systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce” and “compelling evidence of very significant discrimination against women in the most common positions at Google headquarters.” Google denied the allegations.

In September 2017, three former Google employees sued the company, alleging it systematically underpaid women and pushed them into lower level jobs despite high performance and qualifications.

For 2018, Google said women made up 21.4% of tech positions in its global workforce and 25.5% of leadership roles, up about a percentage point in each category from the previous year. The company’s tech workforce remained largely white and Asian, with just 1.5% black employees and 2.8% Latinx employees. Leadership ranks in 2018 were 66.9% white, 26.3% Asian, 2% black, and 1.8% Latinx.

Barbato acknowledged in her memo that Google’s pay equity analysis only tells part of the story. For example, it doesn’t capture less quantifiable obstacles that women and minorities confront routinely in the workplace, much less to even get a job in the first place.

“Our pay equity analysis ensures that compensation is fair for employees in the same job, at the same level, location and performance,” Barbato wrote. “Because  leveling, performance ratings, and promotion impact pay, this year, we are undertaking a comprehensive review of these processes to make sure the outcomes are fair and equitable for all employees.”