The gender wage gap has existed for years through an intricate process of discrimination. Sometimes the process is blatant and obvious, while other times it’s much more subtle. Regardless, the pay gap is undeniable, but companies are beginning to take steps in recent years to close the gap for good.
In the world of information technology, or IT, the pay gap hasn’t been as overwhelming. While there is a noticeable lack of women in technological fields, their pay has often been closer to men’s than in other industries. The gap is still not completely closed, even in IT, yet hope remains the industry can resolve the problem despite recent setbacks.
The Wage Gap in History
The wage gap has existed both as discrimination and as a matter of circumstance. The right to education, discrimination in certain job fields and issues such as maternity leave all factor into the equation. Adjusted pay gaps take these situations into account and strive to give similar salaries to women for similar work. The problem comes in unadjusted pay gaps.
In 2005, an analysis looked into pay gap studies across 260 platforms in more than 60 countries and found improvement between the 1960s and 1990s. The differentials in the gap changed from 65 percent to 30 percent in those three decades. As of 2015, women in the United States got paid anywhere from 78 percent to 82 percent of a male co-worker’s annual salary.
In early March 2019, Google made an announcement that raised quite a few eyebrows regarding the pay gap. Every year, Google analyzes their wages to ensure they’re paying fairly across all sectors and not discriminating against anyone for any reason. If they find discrepancies, they reimburse the employees involved in an adjustment. According to Google’s 2018 analysis, men got paid less than women. To make up for this, Google paid $9.7 million in adjustments to 10,677 employees.
On its surface, this news seems significant, as if the glass ceiling shattered without anyone noticing. However, considering what a long fight the wage gap has been, the report appears too good to be true — especially taking into account that in early 2018, Google had a massive scandal about sexism in the workplace.
Ellis vs. Google
As it turns out, Google’s announcement didn’t show the whole picture. In 2017, former Google engineer Kelly Ellis filed a class-action lawsuit against the company, which helps demonstrate why Google’s 2018 analysis was a failure. The analysis was incomplete because it only compared the salaries of employees in specific sectors, internally marked as levels. The discrepancy the company found was in Level 4.
In the lawsuit, Ellis described that Google hired her in 2010 with four years of experience, putting her straight into Level 3, which is where they usually assign recent college graduates. Ellis stated that a short time later, a man with the same amount of experience came on board at Level 4, which allowed him access to better benefits, pay and opportunity for raises and promotion. The lawsuit went on to say this phenomenon happened multiple times while Ellis worked with Google.
Other Problems With the Analysis
Performance ratings, unfortunately, are subjective. Unconscious or even conscious bias may result in some employees getting lower evaluations than others. In the 2018 analysis, Google was able to control influences like tenure and performance ratings. Since the review was entirely internal, they could easily claim they had taken every factor into account, with nobody able to dispute them.
Lastly, the compensation hardly seems worth the effort. With the amount they paid and the number of employees they compensated in the adjustment, the figures add up to $908 per person annually. At Google, most starting salaries are around $100,000 a year, with the median salary among employees being $197,274 in 2017. The adjustment for their apparent pay gap is less than 1 percent of the average employee’s salary — a figure barely even worth noting.
Closing the Discrimination Gap
Unfortunately, the wage gap won’t close in a day or even in a year. There are a lot of obstacles to overcome, not the least of which is getting more women involved in IT fields. The solution to some problems is to break through barriers and do jobs outside the realm of expectations, while others will take more minds changing about progression.
The attitude about progressive ideals is a mixed bag and even remains a controversial subject in some circles, despite clear-cut evidence to the contrary. Discrimination of any kind won’t change unless authority figures start feeling some repercussions, too. Higher-ups at Google, for example, have full control over potentially misleading reports like that 2018 analysis.
The IT field has made impressive strides, but there’s always room for improvement. Acknowledging the issues and understanding the facts will help a lot.