Skip to main content

U.S. Department of Labor investigation into Google gender pay gap could change Silicon Valley

Google Campus Logo
Google Campus Logo (Image credit: Android Central)

It's been a few days since a judge ruled that Google had to hand over 8,000 of its employees' contact information to the U.S. Department of Labor, but the reason for it remains a prescient matter — and one worth studying up on before heading into the weekend.

Android's maker is currently under investigation for allegedly failing to comply with equal pay laws, those of which were initially set to abolish any pay disparity based on gender. (Fifty years on and we're still having issues with this, though the gap is getting narrower.) The Washington Post reports that evidence of this was uncovered during a routine audit.

The Department of Labor will have to sift through all 8,000 of the contacts — which Google bartered down from 21,000 — and interview each person about how much they make, and then cross reference it with the rest of their co-workers in the same division. "It is incredibly important not just to the department but to taxpayers and to the women at Google that the investigation proceed immediately," said Janet Herold, a regional solicitor at the Department of Labor, in an interview with The Guardian. "We are looking forward to this next phase of the speaking with and listening to the men and women at Google to learn about their experiences and their perspectives on why there are such disparities in pay."

"It is incredibly important not just to the department but to taxpayers and to the women at Google that the investigation proceed immediately."—Janet Herold

For its part, Google has denied that there's any pay gap. In its analysis — in the form of a well-edited and gussied up blog post — the company points to its efforts on ensuring that "men and women who join Google in the same role are compensated on a level playing field." The company even filed a response to the department's requests, citing the fact that it's "complied with various past audits in connection with federal contracts, and those audits have not resulted in challenges to our practices." It continues:

Over the last year, in connection with this audit alone, we've provided more than 329,000 documents and more than 1.7 million data points, including detailed compensation information, in response to OFCCP's 18 different data requests.

Google said it was concerned that the requests went "beyond the scope of what was relevant" for this particular case, which is why it put up such a fight to reduce the initial inquiry in the first place. But why doth protest if there's nothing wrong? If there are in fact problems arising in an audit, wouldn't it make sense to tear apart the room to find the culprit?

It's also troubling considering the different reports of Google's insistence at blocking investigations from taking place at all. A few months back, Google had unsuccessfully attempted to block access to information needed for a high-profile gender discrimination case.

The audit continues, and we'll be following the case until its final chapter. It'll be interesting to see the impact of the verdict on Silicon Valley, regardless of whether it's in Google's favor, especially considering how much the company has done to market its efforts at fostering a diverse workplace. For its part, the valley typically preaches the idea of a utopian society, where technology runs rampant, and equality is palpable. The reality is that there's still a major disparity between men and women who work in technology, not to mention an incredible lack of racial diversity.

Florence Ion was formerly an editor and columnist at Android Central. She writes about Android-powered devices of all types and explores their usefulness in her everyday life. You can follow her on Twitter or watch her Tuesday nights on All About Android.

  • Wow, could this article be any more condescending?
  • It's typical of this particular writer.
  • There's no such thing as spin and no possibility of privacy implications. Next up: "Google complies with invasive audit and why doesn't Google understand data security?"
  • I hope the employees will tell the federal investigators to go to hell and then sue for invasion of privacy. Note that the federal government seemed to be considering similar enforcement actions for sexual orientation under Obama. Can you imagine the privacy implications?
  • "men and women who join Google in the same role are compensated on a level playing field." - Let's focus on pay for performance and nothing else should matter.
  • Exactly! Performance and value contributed to the company is what matters, not the job title in your contract. As far as I remember Google had a very gender blind, anonymous way of establishing pay level based on performance. Any audits should focus on that particular process since it's the only objective way to do it. People are biased, talking to them directly is pointless.
  • If there is a pay gap, why not just save money and only hire women?
  • When a statement like this is made, there is a fundamental misconception about economics and capitalism. Companies are not looking to hire the cheapest labor. Lots of politicians emphasize on this to their own ends allowing us to internalize this. The jobs which require cheap labor, pay minimum wage don’t have significant gender disparity amongst the workforce. However the wage gap doesn’t come from low-paying jobs, and thus the rhetoric of wage gap (at least in Western countries) focuses mostly on high-paying sectors such as under-representation in software engineering, or in executives positions.
  • Like heck they aren't! If I can hire someone that does the same thing as you for less, who do you think I'm going to hire?
  • Is that really how you think Forbes 100 companies hire their executive teams? Their Directors, VP's, Leads, Engineering Managers?
  • Just maybe, men CHOOSE more often than women to pursue careers in those fields! Especially in the west. In the west women are more likely to choose a career that they are passionate about and are interested in. In the west they more often than not have the economic freedom to pursue what ever they want. Meanwhile in developing countries you will find far more women actually do gravitate to the fields that are extremely high paying. They don't have the same luxury as many western women in that regard. You simply do not understand that equal opportunity does not = equal outcome. Or you're just a Marxist. Just maybe they work longer hrs Z take less time off, don't leave the workforce in their 30s to raise children as often as women.
  • A little thing called the Pew Research Center disagrees with you. But sure, let's disregard their stance, empirical evidence, etc, and just take your word for it. Cause that's logical.
  • From pew. "Why does a gender pay gap still persist? In our 2013 survey, women were more likely to say they had taken breaks from their careers to care for their family. These types of interruptions can have an impact on long-term earnings." Roughly four-in-ten mothers said that at some point in their work life they had taken a significant amount of time off (39%) or reduced their work hours (42%) to care for a child or other family member. Roughly a quarter (27%) said they had quit work altogether to take care of these familial responsibilities. Fewer men said the same. For example, just 24% of fathers said they had taken a significant amount of time off to care for a child or other family member. You truly do have no idea what you're talking about.
  • Funny, you mention logical fallacies and then committ one. Taking a snippet of something out of context without considering the whole is literally a logical fallacy. From your very own link: Some part of the pay gap may also be due to gender discrimination. In the 2013 survey, women were about twice as likely as men to say they had been discriminated against at work because of their gender (18% vs. 10%). Furthermore, both men and women see inequalities in the workplace – 77% of women and 63% of men said “this country needs to continue making changes to give men and women equality in the workplace,” according to a 2014 Pew Research Center survey. Try again, it's actually kind of funny at this point :)
  • I didn't take anything out of context. People saying they are discriminated against doesn't make it true you fool. It's a typical thing for today's leftist to do. Nothing is their own fault and doing. They are professional victims and constantly see everything as discriminating. This discussion of the pay gap proves that very thing. It's why so many people are dumb enough to believe that 77 cents on the dollar bs. And it's why politicians constantly spew it Also what females bring home on average vs what a man bringa home on average is not in any way shape or form proof of a gender pay discrimination. Funny how people like you aren't screaming about how men in their twenties earn less than women in their twenties
  • Hmm, probably because I'm in my twenties and earn more than my wife who is also in her twenties and she is technically more qualified than i am? Get a grip. Your world view is seriously ******.
  • So now you're using your personal situation to apply it to all of society! Screw what the actual data says. Me and my gf... You Marxist are your world view is truly despicable
  • Your wife than sucks at salary negotiations
  • Go **** yourself.
  • "Some part of the pay gap may also be due to gender discrimination." "MAY". This is not evidence. Also declarative responses are worthless. In a different study men and women were asked to rate attractiveness of people on a below average/over average scale. Men rated about 50% of women above average, while women rated 10% of men above average. This is how biased people can be in some cases, so declarative statements are worthless and more % women stating their discriminated against probes nothing, it's merely a signal that the topic might be worth digging into. But it's not a proof of anything.
  • And here is some data showing what fields men vs women CHOOSE It's funny when people like you think they have facts and data to back up their nonsense. When in reality. Oh silly me. Why am I either bothering? I don't work or live in silicon valley and I have a penis!
  • So do you just want to go back and forth with links to different studies and databases of varying merit? Because that's what it seems like. For every point you try to make that there is no gender gap there are 3 more that prove out the opposite. Empirically. Why are you trying to do this? To what end? Do you just want so very badly to feel like there isn't an issue so you can validate your own position?
  • Go ahead and find actual data that doesn't show that men CHOOSE on average to go into fields that pay more than women in the west Even in the same field like being a educator, men still choose to be professors in departmenta that pay more, like STEM.
  • Done. Seriously just stop, you're making a fool of yourself. The Wage Gap Cannot Be Explained by Choices
    \f034 The wage gap persists regardless of industry. In the civilian industries that employ
    the most full-time employees – health care and social assistance, manufacturing,
    retail trade and educational services – women are paid less than men. In the health
    care and social assistance industry, women are paid just 72 cents for every dollar paid
    to men. In manufacturing, just 76 cents. In retail trade, 79 cents. And in educational
    services, 88 cents. Across all industries, women are paid lower salaries than men.17
    \f034 The wage gap is present within occupations. Among the occupations with the most
    people working full time, year-round – sales, production, management, and office and
    administrative support – women are paid less than men. In sales, women are paid just 63
    cents for every dollar paid to men. In production, just 72 cents. In management, 76 cents.
    And in office and administrative support occupations, 87 cents.18
    \f034 The wage gap exists regardless of education level. Women with master’s degrees
    working full time, year-round are paid just 72 cents for every dollar paid to men with
    master’s degrees. Further, among full-time, year-round workers, women with doctoral
    degrees are paid less than men with master’s degrees, and women with master’s degrees
    are paid less than men with bachelor’s degrees.19
    \f034 Discrimination and bias still contribute to the wage gap. Statistical analysis shows that
    62 percent of the wage gap can be attributed to occupational and industry differences;
    differences in experience and education; and factors such as race, region and unionization.
    That leaves 38 percent of the gap unaccounted for, leading researchers to conclude that
    factors such as discrimination and unconscious bias continue to affect women’s wages.
  • Oh cute. A document from a women's group making claims with no actual data in it Funny how they leave all that out and stick to their talking points isn't it
  • Ok I'm just done. Whatever you need to do to sleep at night.
  • Lmao, wage gap. All these wage gap datas are fking bullshit since they do not take in consideration a lot of different factors such as years of experience, hours worked, overtime, education, etc The studies that do factor in these different factors actually says that women make more money than men (SHOCKING). I know that I don't have any sources (doesn't mean I'm saying bullshit) But one clear argument against the "wage-gap" would be: Explain to me why NO major and certified economist in the world has ever spoken against this issue? I mean if half the population was being paid less... this hurts the economy right?
  • Hahaha you just balantly copied a Quora answer by a Microsoft employee.
  • You're right, this whole thread is people copying and pasting thing that widely vary in merit. What's your point?
  • I was just little too excited as I recalled I had read those lines before. (and ended up posting this as a reply under a wrong comment and also made a spelling mistake). My bad. Should have guessed as you said, everyone was copying and pasting anyway :)
  • No worries, Sorry to jump down your throat about it. You can probably tell tensions are pretty damn high on this comments thread lol.
  • Exactly!
  • Google didn't try to block access information needed to the investigation. They didn't like the lead solicitor on the case making statements to the press saying that the investigation wasn't over, but we are seeing extreme pay discrimination (I paraphrased that). Also, on the issue of 21000 contact requests (Cnet says 25000), it was the judge who said it was overly broad and seeking information that wasn't relevant including 20 years of pay history, and was intrusive of employee privacy. It wouldn't be the first time a gov't agency tried to over reach in this type of circumstance. Google has a duty to its employees to protect their privacy. Ignoring this fact shows that someone has their own bias on this matter. Also saying Google bartered it down is a bit different than a judge ruling on what happened. It would be great if Android Central would stay out of the politics and just stick to news relevant to Android.
  • Stick to Android news. If I want drivel, I can always read TechCrunch.
  • Whaaaat? How can this be? I thought Google was managed by progressive liberals. Hugh.
  • Exactly. What the hell is going on????
  • Glad to see all the comments so far are actually filled with people who are sick of this pathetic garbage. Maybe some day these people will finally realize that equal opportunity does not mean equal outcome. The only sexism is silicon valley is all these companies who are forced to go out of their way to simply try and hire as many people with vaginas as they simply can. All to try and make people like the person who wrote this article happy.
  • Do you actually work in software? Or in the valley?
  • No. And you don't have to in order to see what has been going on Nor do I have to work in Hollywood to call out this same gsttbdhr/garbage pushed by like minded people there either.
  • Figured you'd say as much.
  • What the truth? And that you have absolutely zero argument at all? Don't let all the public statements and outreach by all these companies in relation to the topic at hand mean a damn thing! The important question is do you work there? It's what these companies do because they don't have the spine to stand up to these people, or they are truly dumb enough to belive their garbage in the first place. Can I critize let's say the meat industry? Can critize the US mobile operators industry? Can I critize Intel for their x299 platform? What about fifa? I'm not a professional soccer player or athlete! What about scientology? I guess I need to join their cult so say something about them. What's your next "argument" check my privilege? That's typically what comes next from people with your level in intellect.
  • Here's my argument: As someone that actually works in the software industry I see this all the time.
    As someone whose wife works in the software industry she sees this all the time. The truth? You literally have no idea what you're talking about. You're about as far removed from this subject as anyone can literally be. It's hilarious that you are the first to resort to ad hominem attacks and yet you some how want to call my intelligence into question. Just further proves my point if anything.
  • Nope. You have no point. It was painfully obvious from the get go that you were trying to make a argument on the logical fallacy of argument from authority. In this entire thread you have yet to make single argument that holds up. And there is no way they possibly can hold up because they're nonsense.
  • I don't think you understand what logical fallacy means...
  • I used to work for a very large company that was in tech and that did a lot of software. The are very prominent in silicon valley. I actually started seeing very high hiring in h1b visas and layoffs of more senior software engineers. The company was basically turning the engineering staff to be all Asian (mainly south Asian, but a good percentage east Asian). As for diversity of women, there were very few applicants. We interviewed for several positions, and maybe 1 in 10-20 applicants were women. Many of the women didn't stick around long with the company (unless they were in sales). If Google has the same types of examples where women don't stay long and are few in applicants, a scratch on the surface could easily look like pay disparities when in fact, the women are far junior in position.
  • What did he say that bothers you? He's absolutely right.
  • Oh just the fact that someone who isn't either In the Industry
    In the valley
    Or a woman Thinks they can dismiss an actual problem with some semblance of authority. That's all. But sure, He's right.
  • And there we have it folks. Since I am not a woman, my argument is invalid. You pathetic sexist dunce
  • You invalidate a real issue based on arbitrary, out of touch opinions. You're disgusting, and poor at deflecting.
  • You invalidate anything I say because I have a penis and don't work or live in the valley. You sexist
  • No, you're making a piss poor attempt at a straw man argument. Your argument is invalid because you are in no way able to base it on fact. It's just misguided conjecture. Because you aren't involved in the situation at hand in any way. It's really not hard to understand.
  • When unable to argue effectively, attack character and hope for the best.
  • Do you have a penis? If so, be quiet!
  • How about pay just be based on merit? Those who do the best job would get the most money. I don't care who that is, what they look like, where they are from, if/who they pray to, etc ... whoever does the best work, gets the biggest paycheck.
  • I believe that is what most are after. If you look at how people are compensated currently in this industry, and others apparently, it doesn't work like that.
    It also doesn't that you end up with people like those in this comments section that just pretend there isn't an issue at all.
  • Oh you mean how the BBC is out to try and hire people solely based on their color and gender and put them in their highest earning bracket to please leftist Marxists in silicon Valley? It couldn't be that that it's TV and the people on air who draw the most views and generate the most money are paid more. It couldn't possibly be that. Nevermind the fact that women at the BBC are actually paid more than women in the the rest of the UK. It's not equal outcome so the disgusting Marxist in silicon valley is upset! Same public company ( BBC) set out to hire people only from "ethnic minority backgrounds" Oh and BTW Do you work in broadcasting or live in the UK? No you don't. So please Stfu!
  • Shhhhh. The data doesn't matter because our buddy makes more than his wife in silicon valley makes more!
  • Percentage of computer science majors in 2014 that are female, 18 percent. Man, why do all these damn companies in silicon valley built around computer science employ more men! Those sexist! We demand equal representation! Those damn sexist bigots! All those jobs that can't even be filled because people aren't qualified. Quick I know the solution, you have a vagina? You're hired! A college actual changed the name of of its course from "Introduction to Symbolic Programming" to "Beauty and the Joy of Computing." Women now outnumber men in the course for the first time in 20 years, the study found. These damn sexists pointing out that by nature men / boys are more interested in computers and computer science! I just can't figure out how it's possible another than sexism that the industry is mostly male and more of the higher paying positions are filled by men! I just can't figure out how somebody like MKBHD viewers are over 90 percent young men. He must have a top secret women block or something! It can't possibly be choice or anything
  • Why is interest in computers and tech "natural" for boys? That just doesn't make sense. Perhaps it's because they are raised thinking they should have those jobs while girls are not. Also, for the girls that do go in to those fields it can be intimidating to enter a male dominated industry. Sexual harassment is a real thing that happens. You made a solid point about enrollment rates for educational programs for tech focused fields of study. There is work being done to address that already, but seeing results will take time.
  • Also, how do you have stats on the followers of YouTube personalities?
  • Disgusting All of it
  • Speaking of the BBC fiasco. Look at this absolute filth these Marxist feminists believe. And how the pathetic media covers it. And our resident Marxist bafoon thinks the BBC is the problem. Even though by his own logic, he isn't in broadcasting or living in the UK so his points invalid. The stupidity is staggering with these people..
  • "Don't be evil" LoL
  • I think that in any industry the best person should be hired for the job. Regardless of background or sex. If two people apply for the same job but one person has qualifications that put them above the other candidate(s), that person should get the job. Hiring someone only because they are a minority or sex should not be the case. If you have two people who have the exact same qualifications and are being hired for the same position then pay should be the same. I know there is salary gaps between gender and race right now. I am not arguing that point. I am also not trying to start or pick a fight with anyone here. I firmly believe though that if you are better for the job then you should get the job. That's it.
  • I agree largely with this but with one very important objection. I don't think even with everything being equal, that the government should force two people to be paid the same for many types of jobs. That being said it, it has nothing to do with gender or race. Call me crazy but I think a two people with as close to identical qualifications can apply for a job with two different expectations for compensation. Maybe they have a competing offer, maybe they have a set expectation that they won't accept x job unless it's for x amount of money. Also we have to take in the employers point of view. Maybe they really want candidate x or they're just having a really hard time filling the position. They should not be forced to not be able to offer a candidate more money to fill the job because of some stupid law. Individuals should be able to freely choose what they feel their worth. And companies should be freely allowed to pay people what they feel they're worth to them as well.
  • There aren't gaps though. When you factor out maternity leave, people working "past 5" and everything, it's equal. I would say if they want it "equal", give both men and women "parental leave" for the same amount of time. The man didn't give birth, but he needs to take care of his wife/gf, and help her do things while she recuperates. She just gave birth, why can't I do all the laundry (instead of splitting it), or get groceries and cook, while she gets back on her feet. Why should she have to do all the errands right after birth solo? She couldn't easily drive to the hospital, that's why only one partner gives birth, so the other can help them out without the physical toll on their body.
  • How about taking a look at the pay gap between blacks and White's at these companies?
  • I'll bite for the trolling. Can you *prove* the gap is because of race and not qualification in *every* instance? Even most instances? I think we're fixing the issue on the wrong end of life. A lot of people in worse neighborhoods don't feel the need to go to school, since they fall for "we won't be paid as much" or "the man will keep me down". Instead, if we gave them better schools, and a reason to go, I think any "gap" would fix itself once these people graduate. I'm not doubting there's a problem, but I don't think the source is anyone alive today. An analogy, if you have a hose and want more water out of the other end, you can't just push more water through it, you should fix the holes so more water makes it to the end.
  • So, the thing that *doesn't exist* will be illegal? Great, more regulations. The 70 cents on the dollar thing was made up of averages. When you factor in the actual jobs they have, and hours/days worked, it is basically the same thing. Like how everyone was upset that Gal Gadot "got less than the Marvel Men" I laughed. She got *more* than they did in their first individual movies. All this regulation will do force pay down. Lets say there's a guy who always works extra hours, and a woman who bolts out the door at five. The guy can't get a raise now as it "won't be fair" to the woman. It will treat everyone equal no matter the effort they put in. I'll be honest, I'm a guy, I bolt out at 5 if possible. I wouldn't expect a raise, but under this law I should right? Equality has to work both ways. On equality both ways, if we'll be "getting paid the same" can I expect the same amount of paternity leave as maternity leave? I didn't give birth, but I need to assist the mother of my child because she did. Should I expect her to do laundry/take care of the house after giving birth while I'm forced to work? If we're both equal now, I should be able to get the exact amount of paid time off for paternity. (not sure if I'm allowed to post videos, but this explains it well imho)