Just last week, Google was accused by the federal government for paying its female employees significantly less. The idea of a “gender pay gap” has caused much controversy over the past decade.
According to Google Books’ Ngram Viewer, which shows trends in the usage of specific words or phrases in books, the usage of “gender pay gap” has steadily been increasing since 1980. Of course, this only reflects the phrase’s occurrence in books, whether in print or online. However, it does not encompass every news article, blog post, Facebook status, tweet, etc. How ironic it is that Google is the one under accusation of contributing to this gender pay gap?
On Friday, April 7, a court hearing took place. In a report published by The Guardian, U.S. Department of Labor regional director, Janette Wipper, revealed the official allegations against Google: “We found systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across [Google’s] entire workforce.”
However, Google denied these statements, saying that there was no gender pay gap between their male and female employees. Eileen Naughton, Google’s Vice President of People Operations, testified regarding Google’s pay equality, citing Google’s annual salary analysis that is “extremely scientific and robust” and “gender blind.”
It seems as though either Google or the feds are wrong, but could it be possible that both sides of the argument are – to an extent – true? According to an analysis by Dr. Andrew Chamberlain, the chief economist of Glassdoor, a site where employees can rate companies and management, this could actually be the case.
On Glassdoor, employees self-reported their salaries, and Chamberlain examined these for Google employees. Although this data did not encompass all of Google’s employees, it served as a good sample size for the company. Chamberlain’s findings were quite interesting.
According to Chamberlain’s findings, overall, Google pays women 16 percent less than it pays men. On the surface, this may seem disturbing – but that is not the entire picture. Fewer women work in high-ranking positions at Google relative to the number of men working in those positions. Chamberlain says, “In our sample of Google salaries, men and women are definitely not equally represented among job titles. For example, about 52 percent of males in our data worked as highly paid software engineers, while just 21 percent of women worked in those roles. By contrast, 6 percent of women in the sample worked as product marketing managers, while just 2 percent of men worked in those roles.”
This is a concept known as “occupational segregation.” Although men and women may be paid the same across one position, just the fact that there may be more men in higher paying jobs contributes at least 54 percent to the gender pay gap according to Chamberlain’s research. In fact, this situation is not unique to Google; it is characteristic of many other technology companies. From this lawsuit, it is clear that the idea of the “gender pay gap” in America needs to be reexamined.