A piece by Tom Knowles in yesterday’s Times:
Google was accused of systematically underpaying women by the US government last year but a study by the company shows that men were paid less for some roles.
The company’s annual report into whether it underpaid women and ethnic minorities in 2018 found that low-level male engineers were being paid less than their female counterparts, because the women received bigger bonuses than men for the same role.
Google said that it used algorithms to set an employee’s total pay package, based on the market rate, location, level and performance rating, but managers were given an extra budget for bonuses and pay rises for particular employees. It was here that managers had allocated significantly more to women than men.
Google said: “If we find any statistically significant discrepancies in any job groups, we make upwards adjustments across the group to eliminate the discrepancy.”
Google said that it shared $9.7 million (£7.4 million) among 10,667 staff to address pay disparities last year, although it did not say how much went to male software engineers. Men account for about 69 per cent of the workforce.
The total figure for adjusting pay was much more than in 2017, when it topped up the pay of 228 employees and spent only $270,000. Google said that the large change was because it had included new recruits in the analysis for the first time. Critics say that a reason for the disparity in extra pay is probably because women were being assigned the wrong level of seniority or pay grade in the first place for their level of qualifications, in a process known in human resources as “job levelling”.
Liz Fong-Jones, a former Google engineer, said that the company’s internal study had “failed to control for underpromoting and underlevelling women”.
She added: “If you have a group of women who are outperforming at level, of course they’ll get given more manager discretion. This is not sexism against men.”
The company said that it was now conducting a “comprehensive review” into how promotions, performance ratings and levelling affects pay to “make sure the outcomes are fair and equitable for all employees”.
Joelle Emerson, chief executive of Paradigm, a consultancy that advises companies on strategies to increase diversity, said: “It would be wonderful to see companies work so hard and invest so much to address pay disparities when the group suffering is underrepresented. When that is the case we typically see all manner of excuses as to why such disparity is justified.”
Google and other large technology firms are under pressure to combat gender issues, from sexual harassment to pay discrimination.
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