According to the US Department of Labor (DoL), Google Inc. has an ‘extreme’ gender pay gap problem, but how accurate are those claims?
Last week, the Guardian reported on allegations made by the DoL at a hearing in U.S. federal court as part of a lawsuit the government agency filed against the Silicon Valley tech giant back in January.
“We found systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce,” DoL regional director Janette Wipper said in court.
To further explain this statement, the Guardian reached out to the DoL for comment.
“The investigation is not complete, but at this point the department has received compelling evidence of very significant discrimination against women in the most common positions at Google headquarters,” said Janet Herold, DoL’s regional solicitor, in response. “The government’s analysis at this point indicates that discrimination against women in Google is quite extreme, even in this industry.”
The problem with the statements made by the DoL is simple – the agency has yet to provide any data backing up its claims.
Google, on the other hand, told the Guardian that, “We vehemently disagree with these claims. Every year, we do a comprehensive and robust analysis of pay across genders and we have found no gender pay gap. Other than making an unfounded statement which we heard for the first time in court, the DoL hasn’t provided any data, or shared its methodology.”
In fact, the DoL’s accusations come just days after the tech giant claimed to have completely eliminated the gender pay gap globally throughout the company.
— Google (@Google) April 4, 2017
The initial lawsuit filed in January was aimed at requiring Google to provide the compensation data and documents the DoL was requesting for a compliance evaluation. As a federal contractor, Google is required by law to allow the DoL to “inspect and copy” records and information about its compliance with equal opportunity laws. In this case, the DoL asked for the job and salary history for Google employees, including names and contact information.
Google has refused to hand over this information, saying it has handed over “hundreds of thousands of records” to the government and that this information reveals confidential information violating its employees’ privacy. In the company’s opening remarks in court, Google attorneys cited the company’s fourth amendment right to protection from unreasonable searches.
The company addressed the accusations made in court last week in an April 11 blog post.
“We were quite surprised when a representative of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs at the US Department of Labor (OFCCP) accused us of not compensating women fairly,” Eileen Naughton, vice president of people operations wrote. “We were taken aback by this assertion, which came without any supporting data or methodology.”
“The OFCCP representative claimed to have reached this conclusion even as the OFCCP is seeking thousands of employee records, including contact details of our employees, in additon to the hundreds of thousands of documents we’ve already produced in response to 18 different document requests,” she continued.
Google has also cited its in-house pay gap analysis, which it released publicly last year. Additionally, the company has been fairly transparent about its attempts at correcting the problem, reporting last year that women made up 31 per cent of its overall workforce. While that number may not exactly scream “progress,” Google hasn’t shied away from criticism in the subject.
Ultimately, it would appear the DoL statement carries little weight without the appropriate data to support it. And according to Herold in her statement to the Guardian, the DoL may not even have access to the data necessary to make those claims.
“[The DoL] seeks additional information to ensure the accuracy of the department’s findings, because if the findings are confirmed, this is a troubling situation,” she said.