back to article Infosec lady flings sueball at Microsoft over 'gender discrimination'

A class action lawsuit has been brought against Microsoft in the US, alleging the firm practises in "intentional, company-wide discrimination against female technical employees". Overall, Microsoft promotes an overwhelmingly disproportionate number of men, and passes over equally or more qualified women, claims the filing to …

  1. sabroni Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    It's not really about asking for a raise....

    ... but knowing and having faith that the system will give you the right raise.

    Now pull your knickers up and go and make me a cup of tea!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's not really about asking for a raise....

      Unfortunately, these lawsuits usually turn out to be lying contests.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's not really about asking for a raise....

        That's the nail on the head. The claim seems to have a main point and then throws a bit of mud in the hope that it'll help.

        The problem comes in being sure if she was genuinely discriminated against because she's female, or if she was just not very good at her job and/or not very nice to work with.

        Another option is that she was passed over for promotion and that she was better at her job than the people who got chosen for promotion/pay rises but that this was nothing to do with her sex. After all, there are loads of people I've seen get passed over due to politics and incompetence and other reasons... that's just how it goes.

        Still, she's said she's a victim so it must all be true.

        1. Donkey Molestor X

          Re: It's not really about asking for a raise....

          > Still, she's said she's a victim so it must all be true.

          I'll bet you're a hit with the ladies.

          1. Charles Manning

            Re: It's not really about asking for a raise....

            So the way to be a hit with the ladies is to treat them as victims?

            Sweetie it's not your fault. Just evil men who try to take advantage of you. Luckily for you I'm a Knight In Shining Armour and I'll treat you like a princess.....

            I've never tried that approach. It might work, but I'd rather have a relationship with a grown up than someone that always plays the victim card.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: It's not really about asking for a raise....

            Ah, the ol' "If I can't beat them with reason, attack their manhood" line. A classic.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              @Donkey

              Interesting reaction.

              The comment was written as a general remark. The point I was trying to lightheartedly make is that in the last few years it appears the first one to shout "I'm a victim" is automatically assumed to be innocent and after that point their claims are no longer critically examined.

              What's interesting is that you think the comment is somehow against women in general.. which it isn't. Nor do I want to say that all victims are making it up (note this is not talking about only women) but clearly some are. We seem to have swung from not treating victims very well right to the other extreme of assuming all that they say is true.

              Lastly, I'm no longer a spotty teenager so I don't really desire to be a hit with "the ladies". I only want to be a hit with one particular lady and as far as I can tell I mostly achieve that.

              Thanks for your concern though.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: @Donkey / @ Anonymous Coward

                The point I was trying to lightheartedly make is that in the last few years it appears the first one to shout "I'm a victim" is automatically assumed to be innocent and after that point their claims are no longer critically examined.

                You do make a valid point but it is interesting that you got quite defensive about the (apparently) lighthearted response Donkey made. You could have ignored it and carried on with the line of reasoning...

                Anyway, the problem faced by society here is that the laws and processes and policies etc have to protect the vulnerable & weak, not the big and powerful. The Mighty Microsoft can hire an army of lawyers to defend itself (it can even astroturf discussion groups if it wants) but the individual, generally, cant.

                Proving discrimination is an absolute nightmare and companies know this which is why big ones are meticulous about keeping performance reports, appraisals etc and (generally) have a transparent approach to how people are promoted. If this is all true, then it will be easy for Microsoft to respond to the class action and demonstrate that it is fair in all its doings.

                The purported victim here has a mountain to climb - not only do they have to find almost invisible evidence that people made decisions based on unlawful bias, but they have to face the immediate and often overwhelming assumptions that "well,they were just shit and now they play the victim card."

                The fact is sometimes this will be true, but not every time.

                So we all have to decide - do we assume the worst and force those who are legitimately being discriminated against to climb a bigger mountain or give up - or do we assume the best and force companies to keep proper records and isolate those who are mistreating the workforce.

                As a Microsoft shareholder (yes, sorry), I am actually outraged that the company could be losing good talent which would help to drive better profits simply because of their gender.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: @Donkey / @ Anonymous Coward / @AC

                  Not sure I was being very defensive but your reply is a good one.

                  I agree that it's difficult to prove discrimination if it done subtly enough. However, it seems that the response of keeping more records and having heavier procedures may have just added more burden to business without stopping discrimination from happening.

                  I've worked with US companies and UK companies with very stringent policies and yet I would say there was probably less discrimination in some of the more "relaxed" European companies I worked for. In fact I'd say the more relaxed regimes meant it was much easier to hire the best candidate and less costly to do so.

                  I suppose I feel today's US/UK approach has the feel of someone who beats themselves with sticks in order to gain some state of righteousness rather than actually addressing the problem.

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: @Donkey / @ Anonymous Coward / @AC

                    I've worked with US companies and UK companies with very stringent policies and yet I would say there was probably less discrimination in some of the more "relaxed" European companies I worked for.

                    I agree - my experience is largely the same. But this is a common problem down to the cultures involved. If you hire relaxed, non-discriminatory people, you can be relaxed about the rules without worrying about court cases. If you hire dirtbags, you need strict policies and immaculate record keeping....

                    I think this is true about everything - a bank which needs to have a campaign to remind its staff to be honest and have "integrity" is so monumentally broken, no amount of leaflets will fix it...

  2. ratfox Silver badge

    This certainly puts in perspective the very visible efforts at our company to insist on non-discriminatory treatment of minorities, encouragements for women to go for promotion and so on.

    It seems that at this point, any large US company that is not publicly and ostentatiously pushing for gender equality at all levels opens itself to this type of lawsuit. I would had assumed that Microsoft had enough internal efforts to cover its ass, but maybe this lawsuit will prove me wrong.

    1. James 139

      Because its not at all even slightly discriminatory to act in favour of a minority.

      Now, if only "positive discrimination" didn't have the word "discrimination" in it.

      It also makes me wonder what the workforce make up is, both in the company as a whole and in each unit.

      If the Trustworthy Computing unit had 10% women, I'd expect more men to get pay rises and promotions, simply by numeric break down. If it was 50%, then I'd expect it to be equal.

      1. Charles Manning

        Since when are women minorities? In the west there are marginally more females than males.

        The third world is different due to females dying in child birth and selective abortion/"cooking fire accidents"/etc which reduce unwanted daughter populations.

    2. Robert Grant Silver badge

      I wonder if there's any evidence of this because they'd be more careful than that if they were deliberately trying to hold back better workers from improving their company.

      More likely they're not trying to do that at an institutional level, but the devil's in the detail of the stats. E.g. if fewer women in an absolute sense are promoted than men then that's probably a pipeline issue, as there are fewer women to be promoted.

      Then there's proportional promotion: if a smaller proportion of women are promoted than of men then is that suspect? Still not yet, because they don't (well, they may, but unofficially) promote based on gender, but on ability, so you have to take all the men at a certain level and all the women, and if three promotions are required, you take the top 3 performers, not the top man, top woman and flip a coin for the gender of the second top.

      The time when there's demonstrably sexist promotions is if there are obvious female choices who are better than the men being promoted. Then there's a huge problem.

      In terms of salary it's similar, and in the relatively uncossetted world of tech your pay rise (if any) will depend on your perceived value, your ability to negotiate, and any competing offers you have. If you don't fight for a pay rise and settle then going to a court to fight the battle for you is one way to do it, but you're basically short-changing anyone who got a pay rise based on merit by doing so.

    3. Lusty

      I agree, I'll be truly amazed if MS HR don't just produce the various scoring methods and results used and close this down lickety split. Doesn't mean it's fair, just that they can make it look fair enough to close any actions off.

  3. chivo243 Silver badge
    Headmaster

    I asked for more money

    Glad to know dumb looks are still free.

  4. msknight

    Don't tell me...

    Microsoft's personnel files are held in Dublin.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Equality of Opportunity.

    The feminazis have somehow changed the agenda from Equality Of Opportunity ( i.e. we all get the same chances ) to Equality Of Numbers ( i.e. every job, everywhere, must be 50% women because men and women are EXACTLY the same. )

    And of course, the feminazis don't complain about 66% of medical students being women.

    1. dogged

      Re: Equality of Opportunity.

      or about 98% of garbage collectors being men.

    2. Dan Paul

      Re: Equality of Opportunity.

      All "minorities" are playing that game and it is detrimental to the company, it's existing employees and the applicants.

      I will say it again, HR should be "Blind"....resumes should be sanitized of all information besides their qualifications and education. All decisions to hire should be based on that criteria alone and no one in the company should divulge the name, sex, age, religion, or race of the applicants until the final interview. Testing to prove competence should be required and will go a long way towards prevention of spurious discrimination lawsuits.

      There should NEVER be any hiring quota used as that is deliberate discrimination and is usually to overcompensate in the opposite direction.

      We need to bring back the idea of a "meritocracy" and consider that while there may well be as many women or other "minorities" as there are men, the number of interested and qualified applicants NEVER matches the percentage of the overall population. Thus that % number is meaningless and is used incorrectly in "diversity" calculations.

      The real decision should be based on are you qualified and do you want the position. Why is that so difficult to understand?

    3. Bc1609

      Re: Equality of Opportunity.

      That may or may not be true, but it's not relevant to this case. The complaint can be found in full, online, free, here: http://microsoftgendercase.com/wp-content/uploads/File-Stamped-Complaint.pdf

      I see no reference there to any demands for equal numbers of women being hired. Rather, it asks for women doing the same job as men, to an equal or higher standard, to receive the same compensation. I don't see this as particularly unfair. To quote:

      "Upon information and belief, female technical employees tended to receive lower scores than their male peers, despite having had equal or better performance during the same performance period. [...] From 2014 to the present, Microsoft has used a similarly unvalidated, and unreliable discriminatory performance evaluation procedure that systematically undervalues female technical employees relative to their male peers, and results in lower scores than men in similar positions with no better or worse objective performance."

      Of course, this is the complaint, not the ruling of the court, and it may be found that Moussouris' allegations are unfounded. But if her claims are accurate then they're well worth complaining about.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Equality of Opportunity.

        female technical employees tended to receive lower scores than their male peers, despite having had equal or better performance during the same performance period.

        ...undervalues female technical employees relative to their male peers, and results in lower scores than men in similar positions with no better or worse objective performance.

        How were they able to measure performance entirely objectively? And what was the point of using a separate scoring system if their effective performance could be measured objectively?

        Perhaps there was actually more to employee evaluations than their ability to meet an arbitrary metric?

        Or just another victim of stack ranking, perhaps?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Equality of Opportunity.

          If women do worse than men in stack ranking systems where males outweigh females, this complaint would have a point. This may very well be the case, since stack ranking benefits smaller "cliques".

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Alternatively

    Maybe this person is just one of those employees that no-one likes to work with and regardless of how "wonderfull" she believes she is, she might actually be a bad person/influence/role model/colleague.

    Brains and knowledge are not the only citeria for being considered before others...

    I know 2 people that are pretty damned clever people but who are almost unemployable because of their "characters"... They are just shitty people to be around and in general have a very negative impact on all those around...

  7. Jagged

    Waxing lyrical ...

    ... The IT dept when I got my first job was 50/50 men/women with slightly more female managers and the dept head was a woman as well. They also had a reasonable number of minorities. Every where I have worked since then has gotten progressively* worse.

    Personally I blame it all on schools. When I started, most people that worked in IT had found their own way there. As soon as they started teaching IT in schools, girls decided it wasn't for them, regardless of the fact they tend to do slightly better overall at maths.

    Sadly the place I work at now is almost entirely male.

    * surely the wrong place to use the word "progressive"!

  8. Trollslayer Silver badge

    Grace Hopper

    Having read her biography this trend is clear from the 40s onwards, the boys clubs taking over.

    1. Charles Manning

      Re: Grace Hopper

      Perhaps you've missed that Grace Hopper:

      1) Worked in 1940s/50s..... Things have changed a lot since then.

      2) Was in the US Navy during and just after a war where there was a push to promote people who had active service experience. No female officers saw active service. Lacking active service was a hindrance to promotion for men too, making it almost impossible to get promotion.

      Sure there was a boy's club then. There was also a "what did you do in the war" club. But neither of those have relevance to what is happening now.

      Now we even have positive discrimination for women in computing (eg. grace hopper.org) and still they do not come in droves.

      Let's just face it: women are, statistically speaking, more drawn to the nurturing and less drawn to engineering. Hence more women become medics and more men become engineers.

      As I said, that's statistically speaking. We should never stand in an individual's way to do what they want (assuming they actually have the skill).

  9. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Two sides to this

    There are two sides to these arguments.

    On the one hand, a woman who comes in and does the same work, should definitely get the same opportunity for raises; if she works harder she should get the raise, or get a higher raise than others. Some women really do go all-out on their career, and it's a tragedy if they are held back just due to gender.

    On the OTHER hand, we've got people here in the US now who expect what they call "equal pay for equal work", but SIMULTANEOUSLY want to be strictly limited to 40 hours a week (no overtime expected), to take off during the work day now and then to take care of business (and sometimes want extended paid maternity leave and paid day care). I don't think the expectations of reasonable hours are unreasonable, and I do think companies are doing something wrong (I'm looking at you, EA!) that expect employees to constantly put in these 50+ hour workweeks But the men who expect to have a "healthy work/home balance" but work somewhere where that means they are putting in like 3/4s the hours of everyone else, don't expect to do that and also get the same pay.

    The problem that I think may arise is the assumption that someone fits into the "no overtime wanted" category BECAUSE of gender, when in fact some men will turn down the overtime too, and some women will go all-out on their career.

    In this case, the documentation should be all there. If she did quality work, and put in the hours, then it'll be documented and she'll have an easy case. If there are problems (with the quality of work, or she put in fewer hours), they'll be documented, and she won't have an easy case. If they do one of those "rate your peers" sort of things, and give raises based on that, maybe her peers are discriminatory and maybe they aren't.

  10. sisk

    Normally when people start talking about discrimination in IT companies I point out that there really aren't enough women in the field to expect tech companies to have anywhere near equal numbers of male and female technicians. Basically the demographic of people who bothered to get that kind of education long enough ago to be getting into the upper echelons of the field today is male and white or Asian. No, I don't know why, nor does it really matter because the point is that's who the tech companies have that can do the job. It's ridiculous to expect the demographic of working technicians to be different than the demographic of educated technicians.

    But here there's more substance to the allegations. If she truly is getting less pay for the same job and is preforming as well as she says (which I take with a grain of salt - not because she's a woman, but because I always take it with a grain of salt when someone is making claims on their own performance) then there's a serious problem in Redmond.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    W1a

    I think it was this satirical show where they wanted to roll out an equality/anti-discrimination policy and showed managers the UK population breakdowns to which one manager complained it meant he would have to sack Asian staff if that was the target. Later on in the discussion someone asked if they had to sack people so they could hire more diverse groups, did someone in 2 groups (race/gender) count towards both targets etc. And so on.

  12. Bladeforce

    SadNads true...

    ..Indian sect roots are showing through

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