back to article Google sued for paying women less than men

Three former Google employees filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against the company on Thursday over charges of unfair pay and promotion. The complaint [PDF] – filed in San Francisco, California, by law firms Altshuler Berzon, LLP and Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein, LLP – alleges that Google systematically pays women …

  1. Nick Z

    It's hard to argue with evidence.

    When a system to ensure fairness is in place. But it's very ineffective in achieving its stated goal. Then you need to wonder if this system is there just for show, or is it a sincere effort?

    When people are doing something wrong, then they normally either try to hide it or put on some show of legitimate appearance.

    Which means that you can't really judge companies and people by their self-projected image. Only the results of what they do can tell you the truth.

    1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      @Nick Z - Many have been suspicious of how large companies hide their mistreatment of groups. It is fairly easy to manipulate job descriptions and qualifications to make the desired discriminatory outcome look legitimate. And this is a company who fired a guy for saying Google has internal problems; what I think the real reason he was fired.

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        And this is a company who fired a guy for saying Google has internal problems;

        He was not fired for that. I suggest you read his drivel.

        It cannot be described by any other means. It is utter drivel. Especially: the "women take stress worse" and other similar stupid musings which do not have a single scientific shred of evidence to back them up. In fact, there is quite a bit of evidence to the opposite, that women are significantly better at enduring long term recurring stress.

        As far as is Google discriminating or not, at this rate this will get to court and the court will have a say. IMHO, there is a significant issue with STEM outside continental Europe (and especially outside Eastern Europe and Russia) having a very significant gender bias to start off with in school and university. Kinda normal when you are indoctrinating girls that the right form for them is to be a stick insect with t*ts in a skimpy outfit which gets her way from the idiot Ken every time (I would have said dick driven idiot, but the afore mentioned character has no dick).

        That creates a very interesting phenomenon - in order to succeed and prove themselves, the few ladies in the profession outside Europe (proper), Eastern Europe and Russia need to be better than the rest. I mean the ones that do not give up early and leave the testosterone driven PFYs to do chestbeating on the subject of their supremacy (quite funny to watch). That is pretty much a fact. So if their salary median is anything different from higher or equal to their male counterparts, that points to some level of bias.

        1. h4rm0ny

          Voland's Right Hand - I really strongly recommend the following article which discusses the Google Memo. It's the invariably excellent Slate Star Codex blog and though long, is really, really worth setting aside quarter of an hour to read through.

          http://slatestarcodex.com/2017/08/07/contra-grant-on-exaggerated-differences/

          I don't agree with everything Devroe wrote. Especially the peculiarly American Left / Right muddled preconceptions at the start. However, to call it "drivel" as you do is not fair.

          And again, I'm going to venture that the large number of downvotes is not because you claim there is sexism in the USA. There is and I've unfortunately encountered it first hand. No disagreement. (Though it was in the area of Upper Management rather than amongst the ranks where everyone was very friendly and I saw no sign of it). I think the downvotes are because you took the extreme position of calling the memo "utter drivel" when Devroe both supports his points and is also at pains to emphasize that women are as capable as men in Tech. Indeed, I've known a couple that are some of the best engineers I've ever worked with.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          ". So if their salary median is anything different from higher or equal to their male counterparts, that points to some level of bias."

          "Some level", yes. But just gender? That's much harder question.

          If you start by claiming that front end and back end developers have similar job and then whine the latter get better pay, then there's nothing but error: They aren't similar or even equivalent jobs.

          What's next? Mobile developers? Embedded developers?

          I can imagine that both groups also get paid more than front end people.

  2. Oengus

    And the company is pretty good about storing data.

    They may be good at storing data but try to get the data out of them (unless it is in their interests)...

  3. Solarflare

    I must admit, it did make me chuckle to see that the company who fired a guy for daring to suggest there might be a better way to deal with percieved inequalities is getting sued for paying women less. You can never please Social Justice I guess...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It's not really rocket science: ensure that people doing the same job get paid the same.

      As for the idiot who they rightly fired: the premise that women are not suitable for a technical career clearly demonstrates he's a moron.

      1. h4rm0ny

        >>As for the idiot who they rightly fired: the premise that women are not suitable for a technical career clearly demonstrates he's a moron.

        That was not his premise. In fact, that runs counter to a number of things he wrote in the piece that he was fired for. You plainly haven't read it. I will link it here:

        https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/3914586-Googles-Ideological-Echo-Chamber.html

        What he argues is (a) that sexism still exists, (b) women are equally capable as a group as men in technical fields and (c) that women have a tendency to prefer other fields. As a consequence of (c), Google is wrong to ascribe all gender imbalance in jobs to discrimination and programs that preferentially advance women in an effort to achieve parity are therefore misguided and actually harmful.

        I have of course stripped it to its utter bare bones removing all of the supporting and cited studies. I suggest anyone who's understanding of the memo is so utterly wrong as yours, read it properly. One can agree with it or disagree with it, but do so based on what he actually wrote.

        The many downvotes you are receiving are not because people disagree that equal performance should mean equal pay, it's because you have built a strawman so large that we could sacrifice Edward Woodward in it.

        1. Solarflare

          "it's because you have built a strawman so large that we could sacrifice Edward Woodward in it."

          Hopefully there won't be any bees beforehand.

        2. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          "What he argues is (a) that sexism still exists, (b) women are equally capable as a group as men in technical fields and (c) that women have a tendency to prefer other fields"

          Google could have used this help in their defense. But they shot themselves in the foot, instead, by firing the guy. Now it's time to pay for their mistakes, I guess.

          (you live by the political correctness, you die by it too)

          Oh, and a big thumbs up to h4rm0ny for stating the facts

      2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        It's not really rocket science: ensure that people doing the same job get paid the same.

        Not the issue here. The ladies claim they are given DIFFERENT jobs which are low paid just because they are ladies.

        I have said it before, I will say it again. The amount of profiling against STEM as a professional choice endured by a woman in USA (and to a lesser, but still significant extent UK) ensures that only the most stubborn or the best remain. The more "basement dwelling" an area is, the more prevalent it is. Security is probably the worst here. There are a few that closely follows.

        There are a few corollaries to that which follow straight out of basic probability and statistics:

        1. If you are hiring off the local job market and you are hiring strictly on merit you will have a predominantly male population. You have to go global and import from countries where STEM has lesser or even inverse gender bias to offset it.

        2. If you have not imported to offset the gender bias, and you have hired solely on merit and you are paying solely on merit, the "surviving" ladies are likely to have higher than average rank. That, in turn, unless you are discriminating, should be fetching higher than average salary.

        The result may look paradoxical, but that is what it should be if the hiring policy is FAIR and MERIT based, because high school and university have already skewed your sample. That, however is extremely rare (especially in large companies).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "The ladies claim they are given DIFFERENT jobs which are low paid just because they are ladies."

          Or they don't have the qualifications or experience or what ever. But this being in the US I won't say it's not possible. On the other hand they do get paid the same as men in the same job, so no, it's not a pay issue.

          Also they don't say anything about having equal competence for back end jobs, which makes me think they don't, so they try to claim it's the same job ("equal").

          Which it isn't, really. To me even trying to say so is a blatant lie.

          Back end people are usually senior full stack developers and they can do everything, including front end, while (junior) front end people can't do anything but the front end.

          Less skills, less pay. There's nothing wrong with that and it's definitely not a gender issue when all front end developers get paid the same.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "It's not really rocket science: ensure that people doing the same job get paid the same."

        If I read this article correctly that wasn't the point, but that the people doing _different job_ are getting paid more. That's totally legal per se.

        And back end developing _is_ a different job, no matter what these people claim. It's always the lowly job holder who claim he/she can easily do the higher level job too as "there's no difference" (that the job holder sees or can understand).

        And if they get the higher level job then they realise it is different. But not before.

  4. JustJasonThings

    "The skills required to perform these jobs are equal or substantially similar."

    Front end and back end require significantly varying levels of skill. In this case they only state the accusers years of experience, not their degree of competence, and the accuser believes that backend and frontend are similarly difficult? This indicates a degree of ignorance. Inequality in tech is a serious issue, but this sounds like a load of baloney.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Front end and back end are different skill sets, and generally front end is paid less...

      Front end is HTML, javascript and the ability to take artwork and turn it into a web page..

      The average back end developer needs to understand all of that that plus the ability to write SQL, Design databases, develop in a back end server language of some kind (Python/ASP/etc), set up development servers, write puppet/ansible to configure the servers etc...

      I.E. the back end guy is expected to be able to do everything.

      Never have I ever had a job that is just back end, even when there is a systems guy/gal, a front end developer, a designer.

      1. h4rm0ny

        >>Front end is HTML, javascript and the ability to take artwork and turn it into a web page..

        I think it's important to state in case it gets lost in all this, that front end work is still very skilled work. I was a back-end person (C++, then databases) who has transitioned into management, but I have plenty of respect for UI designers and implementers. If I were to draw a comparison it would be that between being a doctor and being a consultant. The latter may require deeper knowledge of the systems and take longer to become one, but the former is in no way not vital or not something where experience and skill make a huge difference. I've had the good fortune to manage some top-tier front end developers and they have a grasp of the constant churn of frameworks, libraries and standards that seem to change daily. One week AngularJS is the latest, greatest. The other it's Ember.js. And they keep up with whether to use CherryPy, Django or whatever.

        There's no clear line where Front End development starts and a good front end engineer is hugely valuable and hard to find. I'm a hoary former C++ programmer and DB specialist who has a really solid grasp of how everything works. I'd say my understanding IS deeper than the average front end developer and my work IS more complex. But they're more like the canoeist who has to constantly keep their head above ever changing choppy rapids. Total respect for those people who live on my roof, as it were.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "I think it's important to state in case it gets lost in all this, that front end work is still very skilled work."

          Yes, but this claim is missing the point: Qualified back end developer can do front end too.

          Also build the environments and databases and communications needed and everything.

          I.e. additional skill set compared to front end developers.

          Somehow the article talks about "lowly front end developers" which make me think they don't see it as skilled work at all.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            re: The average back end developer needs to understand all of that that

            I don't think "looking down your nose at" counts as understanding.

    2. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Lack of a penis

      This is America that we're talking about - in America women are always paid less and asked to do more. Google aren't doing anything that virtually every other company in the USA does.

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Thumb Down

        Re: Lack of a penis

        "This is America that we're talking about - in America women are always paid less and asked to do more."

        source, please, and FYI "Southern Poverty Law Center" nor some radical feminist blog isn't a valid source.

        Otherwise, I call BULLSHIT on your "fact".

  5. The Nazz

    Equal pay for .....

    Women?

    Isn't the genuine saying "Equal pay for equal work"?

    Of course, it all depends on the definitions used.

  6. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ha Ha Ha

      How much will you laugh when you know it's been proven that your manly intelligence gets more likely propagated to your offspring only if the offspring is female? And as a man you have more chances to get the intelligence of your mother.

  7. PapaD

    Equal Pay for Equal work....

    Only covers part of the problem though.

    If the real problem isn't that male and female engineers aren't being paid the same, but rather equally capable male and female engineers are being sorted into higher and lower paid career paths based purely on their gender - then that's where your issue is.

    Tough to prove, but its actually the most likely cause of most gender based pay gaps - its very easy to highlight that Bob, who does the same job as Carol, gets paid more for it - but harder to identify that Bob, who has the exact same skills and experience as Carol, was given a higher paying role, and thus is technically doing a different job, whilst Carol was given a lower paying role, despite being fully qualified and capable of doing the higher paying role.

    1. NinjasFTW

      Re: Equal Pay for Equal work....

      This is what i'm struggling to understand from what i've read.

      The brief seems to indicate that people get placed in specific teams when they join. I'm guessing it can't be graduate placement because of the reference to 4 years of previous experience.

      So does the recruitment process at Google mean that you apply to work there for a non-specific role and then they find the best spot for you based on your skills/interview/education?

      I'm personally not sure i'd apply for a job at any company when the role wasn't well define before hand.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Equal Pay for Equal work....

      "... but harder to identify that Bob, who has the exact same skills and experience as Carol... "

      And an imaginary situation which never happens in real life. There aren't two people who have the exact same skill set and experience.

      I'd like to say that in the world but let's take the safe side and say that in Google.

  8. arthoss

    The problem here is they're comparing apples with pears. Unequal pay for different work is normal. It will be hard to prove that UI programming is equal to backend programming for difficulty.

    The only problem I see is that only job women coders got was in frontend and not in backend programming.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "It will be hard to prove that UI programming is equal to backend programming for difficulty."

      Impossible I think you mean.

      "The only problem I see is that only job women coders got was in frontend and not in backend programming."

      The question is was that because they applied for Front End jobs? or was it because they didn't have the skill set to do the back end job?

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        re: "The only problem I see is that only job women coders got was in frontend and not in backend programming."

        There is a second question, are the people responsible for implementing the system exercising personal bias?

        What will be interesting is to know is whether the same core team of managers oversaw the placement of new employees on the career ladder and then advised employees into front or backend jobs. As clearly there is something going on(*), if the allegation is correct over the distribution of women between front and backend jobs.

        (*) including the possibility that Google in the main attracts women software engineers that excel/prefer front-end work.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I do a lot of what i think is meant here by backend. Cant do UI tho - i expect people to feed command lines in , and they get a similarly plain steam of text back.( usually along the lines of "job done")

  9. h4rm0ny

    Google has a LOT of programmes and policy to support women in the company. Including female-only programmes. The plaintiff's claim is that the reason for their different position / pay is because they are women. I honestly find that unlikely given what I know of Google.

    Because proving their different position / pay is down to their gender will be very, very difficult, their main recourse is to try and prove systemic sexism. What they can't prove on the individual level they can still win by default if they prove the environment is sexist.

    I honestly think that, at least at Google, they'll fail at that.

  10. Jim 59

    Thomas Claburn dismisses Damore's entire article without a pause:

    "Among other ill-supported claims, he insisted there's no pay gap."

    In fact the scientific claims Delmore made have since received some vindication. However, I would not advise any ambitious journalist to dwell on that, or to be seen to agree with Delmore in any way, because, as the author knows:

    "Damore's tract got him fired shortly after it became public."

    1. Jim 59

      ...this isn't meant to imply that Claburn secretly agrees with Delmore, but to point out the general situation: Many people must now have, or quickly obtain, the "correct" views, or risk losing their jobs and livelihood.

      This affects people across the media, in many large companies and public organisations.

      Common sense indicates that many of these people will secretly disagree, but not dare to speak out..

  11. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Who to believe?

    "Women get the lowly frontend jobs, while the men bask in backend glory"

    So basically the problem is that men get higher pay for quite different job, if I understood it right.

    They could whine about CEO pay as well, he's also a man and have a different job.

    If Google doesn't hire backend people just based on gender, that's another issue, but it's not _pay issue_.

    Are these women having qualifications for a back end developer? Story doesn't tell.

    To me this looks a feeling issue: They feel that they aren't paid enough.

    I can buy that, but it's not because they are women: Male front end developers aren't getting any better pay, if we are to believe Google.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Claims don't hold water very well

    "Google pays backend engineers more than frontend and fastracks them for promotion"

    Nothing wrong with that. More skilled people are paid more. These often are senior engineers so they are also promoted faster than junior engineers. That's not wrong either and has nothing to do with gender.

    "The skills required to perform these jobs are equal or substantially similar."

    This is total bullshit and yet again we have a front end developer who thinks it's the same thing. It isn't. Unless they use terms totally different than the rest of the world, but I doubt that.

    In this context that's a blatant lie to squeeze more money from Google via court.

  14. art guerrilla

    first things first...

    salaries are based on bullshit, here is how i know:

    i believe it was a study in jolly old where they researched who performed the most useful, critical jobs in society (and how much they were paid), and who performed the least useful, wouldn't-be-missed-if-they-fell-off-the-planet jobs...

    turns out, banksters and CEOs are the LEAST useful people on the planet, BUT the highest paid; hospital janitors are the MOST useful people on the planet, but paid the least...

    THAT is how i know that salaries are based on social expectations and Empire stroking their technokrats, NOT some sort of meritocracy...

    as an aside, regarding men vs woman pay; excepting a -literal- percent or two of knuckledraggers, WHO disagrees that woman and men shouldn't get equal pay for equal work ? ? ?

    WHO ? ? ?

    effectively no one, please stop beating EVERYONE over the head with that crap...

    (if you must, beat the useless CEOs over the head, but stop blaming the 99% for what the 1% do...)

    1. Tuomas Hosia

      Re: first things first...

      "THAT is how i know that salaries are based on social expectations and Empire stroking their technokrats, NOT some sort of meritocracy..."

      Banksters, who are getting paid most for least value, aren't technokrats at all, but 'economists'. That's as far as you can get from technology. These people live in a fantasy world where money rains from the sky and there are hundreds of conflicting theories, none of which can ever be proven. It's not even science by any sensible measurement.

      "... as an aside, regarding men vs woman pay; excepting a -literal- percent or two of knuckledraggers, WHO disagrees that woman and men shouldn't get equal pay for equal work ? ? ?"

      Not many ... but claiming that your job is the same as someone elses ("equal") and they are getting paid better because they are men, is just greedyness when it isn't the same work.

      Men doing actually equal work are getting paid the same, so no problem here.

    2. h4rm0ny

      Re: first things first...

      >>turns out, banksters and CEOs are the LEAST useful people on the planet, BUT the highest paid; hospital janitors are the MOST useful people on the planet, but paid the least...

      Pay is determined by supply and demand. Hospital Janitors are easily obtainable. Good CEOs, you might be surprised to learn, are not. It's often thought that CEOs are not worth the millions in salary or bonus because "they don't do any work", also.

      Consider this basic thought experiment. You are the board of a company with a billion dollars a year turn over. There are quite a lot of such companies, as it happens. Suppose you have two candidates and the difference in outcome is a mere 2% to your yearly revenues. That is one will be this tiny little bit better than the other. That 2% equates to $10,000,000 difference in revenues. Ergo it is well worth paying a few million for the one that is better.

      Furthermore, let us examine the related scenario where the difference in outcome of a CEO busting their arse all year and cruising along working 9 to 5 is, again, 2% difference to yearly outcome. Suddenly it becomes well worth it to the company to offer that million dollar bonus for doing well.

      Now of course, 2% is just a figure I picked to illustrate. But having seen first hand at companies I've worked at the decisions of the CEO having a much greater effect than that, I think it's pretty reasonable as a way to illustrate their market value.

      Janitors meanwhile, might as a whole be vitale to society, any given one of them however has low market value (no offense to any janitors reading this but I'm pretty sure they're aware they don't get paid much).

      Your logic is honestly pretty bad. You sound like you've been reading that execrable pretence of statistics, Freakonomics by Steven Levitt.

  15. Brian Allan 1

    People will always think they deserve more $$$'s! In most cases the ones complaining are the ones who really deserve the lower salary.

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