Software engineer Erica Baker ignited a firestorm inside Google two years ago when she and coworkers listed their salaries in a spreadsheet. The sampling appeared to show that there were differences potentially based on gender and ethnicity.
A firestorm, again, is occurring inside Google. It’s a different scenario with software engineer James Damore, but it once again involves a shared document and sexism. Damore published a 10-page manifesto on an internal Google system last week that criticized the company’s diversity initiatives and tried to make an argument that women are less biologically equipped than men to take leadership roles.
The manifesto was made public, kicking off a firestorm or criticism. And that’s just the start of Google’s problems.
Now, more than 60 current and former Google employees are in conversations to bring a class action lawsuit against the tech giant, alleging sexism and a gender pay gap against women,The Guardian reported.
These aren’t the only times Google, sexism, and a gender pay gap have been talked about together. The U.S. Department of Labor is investigating the company. In April, the DoL’s report indicated that “discrimination against women in Google is quite extreme, even in this industry,” Janet Herold of the DoL told The Guardian.
At the time, Google denied the DoL’s claims. The company also denied any gender pay disparity when Baker had raised the point. And, with this latest potential lawsuit, a Google spokesperson told The Guardian, Sixty people is a really small sample size.
All of this controversy related to sexism begs the question: Why does it keep coming up?
Google isn’t alone in this type of controversy. Sexism is pervasive in Silicon Valleyjust ask venture capitalists, or rather the women who were sexual harassed by them, or ask Susan Fowler and ride-hailing giant Uber.
It’s funny to me that Googlebro and his supporters have totally ignored that Google has some of the top female tech leaders in the industry
Susan J. Fowler (@susanthesquark) August 8, 2017
Google isn’t blind to this discrimination. Susan Wojcicki, CEO of Google-owned YouTube, wrote an open letter about the sexism she has faced, even in her leadership role.
“Ive had my abilities and commitment to my job questioned. Ive been left out of key industry events and social gatherings. Ive had meetings with external leaders where they primarily addressed the more junior male colleagues. Ive had my comments frequently interrupted and my ideas ignored until they were rephrased by men. No matter how often this all happened, it still hurt,” Wojcicki wrote.
Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, formerly of Google, posted on Facebook in wake of Damore’s manifesto: “Inequality in tech isnt due to gender differences. Its due to cultural stereotypes that persist. We all need to do more.” She shared a LinkedIn post written by Adam Grant, a professor at Wharton and her co-author on her latest book Option B, where Grant cited research that contradicted Damore’s sexist claims.
But why does sexism keep coming up? As Sandberg said, “We all need to do more.”
That includes Google. While firing Damore shows that Google doesn’t tolerate discriminatory behavior in the workplace, it doesn’t help that their statements, in the wake of the DoL’s investigation or a potential class action lawsuit or even with Baker’s spreadsheet, seem to shut down the idea that Google is not perfect; the idea that “extreme” discrimination in pay could exist in the tech giant.
Baker, following Google CEO Sundar Pichai’s memo on the controversy and news of the company’s decision to fire Damore, asked about other potential sexism inside Google:
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