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Google moves to address wage equity and finds it’s underpaying many men

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When Google conducted a study recently to determine whether the company was underpaying women and members of minority groups, it found, to the surprise of just about everyone, that men were paid less money than women for doing similar work.

[SAN FRANCISCO] When Google conducted a study recently to determine whether the company was underpaying women and members of minority groups, it found, to the surprise of just about everyone, that men were paid less money than women for doing similar work.

The study, which disproportionately led to pay raises for thousands of men, is done every year, but the latest findings arrived as Google and other companies in Silicon Valley face increasing pressure to deal with gender issues in the workplace.

The Labor Department is investigating whether Google systematically underpays women. It has been sued by former employees who claim they were paid less than men with the same qualifications.

Critics said the results of the pay study could give a false impression. Company officials acknowledged that it did not address whether women were hired at a lower pay grade than men with similar qualifications.

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Google seems to be advancing a "flawed and incomplete sense of equality" by making sure men and women receive similar salaries for similar work, said Joelle Emerson, chief executive of Paradigm, a consulting company that advises companies on strategies for increasing diversity. That is not the same as addressing "equity", she said, which would involve examining the structural hurdles that women face as engineers.

Google has denied paying women less, and the company agreed that compensation among similar job titles was not by itself a complete measure of equity. A more difficult issue to solve is a human resources concept called levelling. Are employees assigned to the appropriate pay grade for their qualifications?

The company said it was now trying to address the issue.

"Because levelling, 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," Lauren Barbato, Google's lead analyst for pay equity, people analytics, wrote in a blog post made public on Monday.

In response to the study, Google gave US$9.7 million in additional compensation to 10,677 employees for this year. Men account for about 69 per cent of the company's workforce, but they received a higher percentage of the money. The exact number of men who got raises is unclear.

NYTIMES