Saturday, April 7, 2018

Google: Gender Bias inside the Silicone Valley (2017)


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Google has been having issues with employees coming forward with complaints about the company’s divisive opinion on gender. In September of 2017, three former employees of Google filed class action lawsuits against them, stating that there was a pattern of discrimination against women workers. Their biggest accusation was that the company was systematically paying female employees less than their male counterparts. Ex-Googlers Kelly Ellis, Holly Pease, and Kelli Wisuri appeared in San Francisco Superior court to file the suit, which was followed by another suit from the United States Department of Labor which claimed to have found evidence of “extreme” gender pay gaps at the company. The three women claim that during their time at Google, which was between 2005 and 2016, the company “discriminated and continues to discriminate against its female employees by paying female employees less than male employees with similar skills, experience, and duties". Kelly Ellis, who is an experienced software engineer resigned from the company in 2014 after working there for 4 years. Her reasoning behind leaving the company was due to the “sexiest culture” that she was subjected too during her time there. The suit explains in detail that Ellis was “occupationally segregated” into a “front-end” role, due to a “false and gendered perception at Google that back-end software engineering is more technically rigorous, and therefore more prestigious." Ellis observed that "almost all back-end software engineers were men."” 

Earlier in the same month, the website “Motherboard” posted a 10 page manifesto which criticized the companies’ diversity programs and claimed that women are “biologically less suited for certain tech roles than men”. He also claimed that the gender wage gap was just a myth. CEO Sundar Pichai handled the fallout from this personally, claiming that the idea that one gender is less biologically equipped to handle a job is offensive and not okay. This opened another wound, due to Google firing the employee for breaking the companies’ code of conduct. This memo came at a time where the tech giant was struggling to address the lack of diversity within the Silicone Valley. Back in 2015, Google pledged $150 million to focus on hiring more women and minorities. But as of June 2017, the company said that 69% of its employees are white and 56% of them are men, showing that growth has been moving rather slow. 


There are many stakeholders to this scandal. Google is one of the largest companies in the world, with billions of people using it every single day. and of these billions of people, a high majority of them would expect a company of such stature to do the right thing when it comes to equal opportunity, and pay their employees the same wages per position. With the knowledge of this scandal, Google is at risk of an uproar from society. there have been boycotts for lesser issues, and Google, even with its stature, isn't the only search engine in the world. The employees are also major stakeholders in this company. Google is only as strong as its employees will to work. If there is an internal boycott, Google is at risk of losing hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars. Workers care for each other, and if employees see a hard working employee making less than a not so hardworking employee, it could turn them against the company. 


According the Friedman's theory of Individualism, "the only goal of a business is to profit, so the only obligation that the business person (or owner/CEO) has is to maximize profit for the owner or the stakeholders." That being said, an individualist would still look at this as being morally unethical. No matter the argument you can make, this does not support the individualist mindset. Why chose women over men? Why would a company chose to pay women less than men with the mindset of saving money. They could pay both equally less, which again could be considered another scandal but would support the individualist belief system. But in this case, the company is consciously paying women less than men, which does not maximize profit for the company.   
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In Kantianism, there are 4 basic principles./ you need to act rationally. allow and help people to make rational decisions, respect people and their autonomy. in the case of this Google scandal, this would be considered as unethical as the company did not look at both genders equally. they consciously chose to pay women less than men. If they had paid both women and men less equally, it would be more of a rational choice, but since they didn't, these decision making seems irrational.


Utilitarianism comes from two different aspects, which are altruism and egoism. Altruism is to maximize the happiness of others, where egoism is the maximize ones own happiness. Someone coming from a utilitarianism standpoint, this would still come as an unethical decision. Yes. the company is maximizing their own happiness by saving money from not paying women the same as men, but they are not attempting to maximize their female employee's happiness by not paying them the same as men. Therefore, this is an unethical choice. 

Virtue Theory:

In business ethics, the virtue theory focuses mainly on the act of someone or something, and if it is unethical or not. Justice, temperance, courage, and honesty are the four characteristics that this focuses on. Using this theory's standpoint, this entire case would be unethical, due to Google deciding to pay women less then men. If Google decided they wanted to save money, they would have paid both men and women less equally, but instead paid only one of the genders less. This makes the entire thing unethical, as they targeted a certain geographic intentionally. 


Larson, Erik. “Google Sued for Allegedly Paying Women Less Than Male Peers.”, Bloomberg, 14 Sept. 2017,
Matsakis, Louise. “Google Employee's Anti-Diversity Manifesto Goes 'Internally Viral'.”Motherboard, 5 Aug. 2017,
recap:, Here's a quick. “The Google Controversy in Two Minutes.” CNNMoney, Cable News Network,
O'Connor, Clare. “Google Sued For Gender Discrimination By Female Former Employees.”Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 15 Sept. 2017,
Kennedy, Merrit. “3 Female Former Employees Sue Google Over Alleged Gender Pay Discrimination.” NPR, NPR, 15 Sept. 2017,

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