Google Employees Walk Out Over Womens Treatment

Google's rush to address pay inequalities among its male and female employees has had astonishing and sometimes disastrous results.

The latest version of its annual pay study found that Google was actually under paying a larger number of men compared to women. That was a shock. But the rush to right this imbalance led to Google taking corrective measures that ultimately saw more women being paid less than men.

That raised an outcry among women when it leaked. Google has always denied it pays women less than men for doing the same job.

Based on the study, Google gave $9.7 million in additional compensation to 10,677 employees for 2019. Men account for 69 percent of the company's workforce, and received a higher percentage of the money compared to women, who raised a new outcry.

As confusing as all this sounds, it's par for the course in the gender and pay equity mayhem engulfing the company. Google's previous missteps have led to a ton of lawsuits filed against it while triggering unwanted federal investigations. In one case, Google faces a class-action lawsuit representing more than 8,300 current and former female employees.

The U.S. Department of Labor is investigating if Google systematically underpays women. Over the past years, Google has been sued by former female employees claiming they were paid less than men with similar qualifications.

And late last year, thousands of Google employees protested the way the company handles sexual harassment claims against top executives.

The problems Google keeps creating in its quest to mitigate inequality might be because the company's going about this remedial process the wrong way, claims some human resources experts. And the algorithms that determine an employee's pay might be flawed.

But the most surprising revelation is this whole new mess Google finds itself in might have been caused by the solutions it sought to impose.

Google appears to be implementing a "flawed and incomplete sense of equality" by making sure men and women receive similar salaries for similar work, said Joelle Emerson. She's the CEO of Paradigm, a consulting company that advises companies on strategies for enhancing diversity in the workplace.

Going for equality isn't same as addressing "equity," said Emerson. The latter involves examining structural hurdles that women face at work. Google does admit that compensation among similar job titles isn't by itself a complete measure of equity.

Google
Google Inc's logo is seen at an office in Seoul in this May 3, 2011 file photograph. Google Inc will launch a mobile payment system on Thursday, in the latest bid to help consumers pay at the checkout with smartphones instead of traditional credit cards, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters on May 24, 2011. This logo has been updated and is no longer in use. Reuters

The company's also trying to get a grip on "leveling," a human resources concept which requires that employees are assigned to the appropriate pay grade for their qualifications. Tackling leveling then leads to setting the employees pay, which at Google begins with an algorithm using factors like performance, location and the employee's job.

"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," said Lauren Barbato, Google's lead analyst for pay equity, people analytics.

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