Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Google: Is Google Paying Men and Women Unequally? (2015)

Does Google pay their male and female employees equally? It is a law to pay people equally for performing the same job. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 is a “labor law amending the Fair Labor Standards Act, aimed at abolishing wage disparity based on sex”. This means that someone cannot be paid less because they are male or female. This law also encompasses, religion, age, sexual orientation, etc.

Erica Baker 
In July 2015 Erica Baker and some coworkers started a spreadsheet (out of boredom) that consisted of their positions and salaries. To their surprise there were differences. Some people were being paid more to do the same job. The spreadsheet migrated around the company and ended up having approximately 2,500 job positions and salaries on it in March 2015. That is about 3% of the companies 72,053 total employees. Fellow employees were elated that Baker helped start this, and that they had the option to join in. Baker was one of the people who was being paid less to do the same job. She also claims she was discriminated against further because after the spreadsheet started circulating the company she was denied bonuses. Google allows co-workers to give "'peer bonuses' - a $150 award Googlers can dole out to colleagues they think have done good work -". Coworkers were trying to give her a bonus "for her work opening up the discussion about wages at Google". However, each time a peer would try to give her the bonus her manager would deny it. Baker never got a peer bonus for her work on the spreadsheet. Some of her coworkers did not even know managers could revoke peer-bonuses at the time.

Bakers' frustration furthered when she heard a male colleague, who had also worked on the spreadsheet, had been approved a bonus when she was being repeatedly denied. She said that when she told him this he became angry as well. He wanted even more people to join the spreadsheet and to tell the world about people being wrongfully reprimanded for using it. Others were also speaking up to their managers and being given salary raises to be paid the same amount as someone else in their position. Not everyone had the courage to do this however.

A Google spokesperson said that 'employees are free to share their salaries with one another if they choose', meaning that Baker and her colleagues did nothing wrong. The spokesperson also said "we can confirm that we regularly run analysis of compensation, promotion, and performance to ensure that they are equitable with no pay gap". This means that Google should be able to prove that there is no wage gap in their company based on discrimination.

Baker has since left Google and now works for a workplace messaging company called Slack as an engineer. The number of people who have contributed to the spreadsheet has also grown since she left in March 2015.

Stalk Holders

A stakeholder is anyone who is affected by something. In this case, anyone who is affected by a wage gap inflicted by Google. An important stakeholder in this case is Erica Baker. She is the only actual name we have so far of people that directly started and contributed to the spreadsheet being put together and shared. This also means all of the employees at Google, who contributed to the spreadsheet are stakeholders as well. They are risking being reprehended, illegally, if they contribute to the spreadsheet in any way. People who have stock in Google as stakeholders as well. Since the company's stock is public literally anyone can buy it. If it is proved that Google does discriminate with a wage gap or otherwise this will very likely drop the price of the stock. It could make any stock people have meaningless and ruin the reputation of the company.

Ethical Theories

Individualism finds this issue ethical because some people are just better negotiators than others. As long as everything is to make profit and within the constraints of the law it is okay. Since Google did nothing directly illegal, like paying someone less just because they are female, but based on skill, it is legal. 
Utilitarianism would find this unethical, since not everyone was happy. Utilitarians aim to maximizing happiness and minimize unhappiness for everyone. We know that Baker and her coworkers are not happy and can assume that their are other people within the company that are unhappy and feel discriminated against as well. This issue is going to set a persistent, either good or bad, for Google as a whole. 
According to Kant you are to respect people. This means Kantians' would find this case unethical because people were disrespected and treated poorly. You cannot deny a bonus for someone who did something good just because it now makes someone else look bad. People should strive to expose injustices and should be rewarded for it. 
Virtue theory is all about honesty and courage. It would find this case unethical. If Google does have a wage gap they should tell their employees and work to remedy it. Google should not try and cover it up or deny it. They never directly say there is or is not a wage gap, and they should be able to do this. Hiding things just makes it worse. By not saying there is a wage gap it actually makes things worse. If Google came out and said they messed up and there is a wage gap that they are working to fix then they can be considered honest and therefore credible. By denying that there is a wage gap but lacking any proof they are basically saying there is a wage gap. It is like a murdering in a horror movie telling a cop they have no proof, rather than just denying they killed anyone. 

Action Plan

Chart of the wage gap from the Obama Administration
Googles current mission is "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful". I agree that this is a very good and fit mission for Google. This means they should be able to organize, and keep their own information. Especially since they want to up hold information for the world. 
The average wage gap between a man and woman is $0.78. This means that for every dollar a man makes a woman makes $0.78 for the same job, on average.One of the places where this gap is the largest and most profound is in the tech industry, places like Google. 
For Google executives to fix this issue, and to try and prevent things like this from happening in the future, their first step should be to contribute to the spreadsheet. They should add the salary and position of everyone in the company. They should then sent this new spreadsheet out to every employee and have them validate that that is in fact their position and salary. This transparency will show that there is not (or is) a wage gap. Continuing with this transparency and keeping the spreadsheet up to date would hopefully allow open and easy conversations between employees and their managers. Allowing Google to squash any claims of wage discrimination in the future. 


In my opinion what Google did was unethical. Someone can be paid more because they negotiated less severely than someone else. Some people just naturally negotiate better. Therefore getting the same job for a larger salary. However, the bracket Google is working within should be based on skill and position. People should also not be afraid to talk about their salaries, ask for a raise or be fired/other wise reprimanded for doing so. Google should also be willing to produce a spreadsheet about what the actual wages of their employees are to back their claims of no wage gap. This lack, or unwillingness, to provide proof makes me suspicious.

Brown, Kristen V. "Ex-Googler Says She Exposed Company-wide Pay Inequality with Crowdsourced Spreadsheet." Fusion. N.p., 17 July 2015. Web. 30 Jan. 2017.

Brown, Kristen V. "Google Says It Has 'no Pay Gap' and That Employees Are Welcome to Share Salaries With Each Other." Fusion. N.p., 21 July 2015. Web. 30 Jan. 2017.

Brown, Kristen V. "What Happens When Googlers Share Their Salaries." Fusion. N.p., 29 July 2015. Web. 30 Jan. 2017.O'Connor, Clare. "Meet The Woman Investor Pushing Amazon, Google, And More To Close Gender Pay Gap." Forbes.Com (2016): 26. Business Source Premier. Web. 30 Jan. 2017.

Patten, Eileen. "On Equal Pay Day, Key Facts about the Gender Pay Gap." Pew Research Center. Pew Research Center, 14 Apr. 2015. Web. 30 Jan. 2017.

"The Equal Pay Act of 1963." The Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA). U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, n.d. Web. 30 Jan. 2017.

"What Is the Gender Pay Gap?" CB3086. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Jan. 2017.

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