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Google accused of 'systemic' gender pay gaps

April 9, 2017

Search giant Google has been accused by the US Department of Labor of shortchanging its female staff. A regional director told a San Francisco courtroom that the DoL had found "systemic compensation disparities."

USA Google Hauptsitz in Mountain View, Kalifornien
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. J. Sanchez

While Silicon Valley might like to think that it boasts one of the world's most progressive working environments, it continues to struggle to rid itself of its male-dominant "bro culture" image.

Those efforts suffered another setback Friday on the back of a government investigation into one of the tech industry's anchor firms, Google.

The US Department of Labor determined during a court hearing Friday that the search giant pays its female staff less than their male counterparts.

According to The Associated Press news agency and The Guardian newspaper, Janette Wipper, a Labor Department regional director, told a San Francisco court that her agency's investigation into Google "found systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce."

Read more: Google apologizes for ads alongside extremist content

Wipper's testimony came on the back of a Department of Labor lawsuit against Google over withheld compensation data. As a federal contractor, Google is required by law to provide the department with records concerning its compliance with equal opportunities laws. Google has claimed it has handed over much of the requested data but believes that the withheld data would risk invading user privacy. 

Wipper said her estimation was based on a snapshot of salary data for 2015 that the Labor Department had obtained.

Following the hearing, the Labor Department's regional solicitor reportedly told The Guardian that the department had received "compelling evidence of very significant discrimination against women in the most common positions at Google headquarters."


Google has vehemently denied the allegations. "Every year, we do a comprehensive and robust analysis of pay across genders and we have found no gender pay gap," the company responded in a statement.

Read more: Opinion: Gender equality at a snail's pace

The timing of the Department of Labor's allegations came at a damning time for Google. Just this week, the search company commemorated Equal Pay Day by celebrating itself as a vanguard for companies moving to close the gender gap. "We're sharing some of the lessons we've learned to help other businesses close the pay gap," the firm said on Twitter.

Public records suggest that just under one-third of Google's approximately 70,000 employees are women. That ratio drops to just 19 percent when it comes to the number of women in engineering jobs.

A man cave?

Google and its Silicon Valley peers have so far been reluctant to disclose their compensation practices.

To address the increasing number of discrimination claims coming out of Silicon Valley, the Labor Department has made it its mission to scrutinize and bring the technology industry's pay and hiring practices to light.

Earlier this year, the department also filed a lawsuit against Oracle, a Silicon Valley veteran specializing in enterprise software, on charges that white male workers had been routinely paid higher salaries than their female, non-white colleagues in comparable jobs.

dm/kl (AP, Guardian)