Google Segregates Women into Lower Level Jobs, Lawsuit Alleges

The tech giant “systematically” discriminates against its female employees and also keeps them from opportunities for promotions, according to a lawsuit.

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A new lawsuit officially charges Google with discriminating against its female workers by “segregating” them into lower-paying positions.

According to the suit, filed Thursday, Google “systematically” pays women less than men “performing substantially similar work.” It also accuses Google of “assigning and keeping women in job ladders and levels with lower compensation ceilings and advancement opportunities” than people with similar backgrounds and responsibilities.

Google is “segregating women into lesser compensated jobs than men with similar skills and experience” and is “failing to promote women at the same rate or pace as men,” according to the filing.

The complaint comes on the heels of an employee-generated report demonstrating the company’s gender wage gap at various levels of employment.

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Google Women Earn Less than Men, Employee-Reported Data Shows

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A spreadsheet created by Google workers points to the highly cited gender pay gap at the tech giant.

Google has never applied to compete in the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity competition.

Women make up 31 percent of Google’s total employees but only occupy 20 percent of tech roles and a quarter of leadership positions. Women of color represent even less of the company, as Blacks and Hispanics comprise just 2 and 4 percent, respectively, of Google’s total workforce. Hispanics and Blacks represent 3 and 1 percent, respectively, of Google’s tech workers. For leadership jobs, Hispanics and Blacks each represent 2 percent. Among the DiversityInc Top 50, women represent 46.3 percent of the whole workforce and 32.7 percent of senior management, and Blacks, Latinos and Asians make up 15.6 percent of senior managers.

The lawsuit names three female former Google employees as plaintiffs: Kelly Ellis, Holly Pease and Kelly Wisuri. Ellis worked as a software engineer for four years, Pease served in various managerial roles over the course of about 11 years and Wisuri spent three years there as a sales communications specialist and brand evangelist, according to the suit.

“While Google has been an industry-leading tech innovator, its treatment of female employees has not entered the 21st century,” said Kelly Dermody, one of the women’s attorneys, in a statement, according to Reuters.

Gina Scigliano, a spokeswoman for Google, said in a statement to Reuters, “If we ever see individual discrepancies or problems, we work to fix them, because Google has always sought to be a great employer, for every one of our employees.”

According to the suit, Ellis was discriminated against immediately upon her hiring. Despite having a bachelor’s degree and four years of experience, Google placed her in a level 3 role, which “Google typically assigns new college graduates,” the suit states.

Several weeks after hiring Ellis Google hired a male software engineer to work on her team — but placed him in a level 4 role despite having similar qualifications as Ellis, the lawsuit alleges.

Ellis received positive performance reviews but was denied a promotion the first time she applied, according to the suit.

“Ms. Ellis eventually obtained the higher-paying Level 4 designation that was handed to her male counterparts on their first day on the job — but by that time, her male counterparts were on their way to even higher levels and compensation for similar work, ensuring that she could never catch up on the gender pay gap,” the filing states.

Pease worked at the company for over a decade and had about that much experience in her field upon her hiring. Despite this, and the fact that she managed about 50 engineers and analysts, she was never afforded the opportunity to work on the company’s “technical” ladder, according to the lawsuit. Google’s “technical” ladders pay more in “salaries, bonuses, pay raises, and company equity,” the suit explains.

According to the complaint, Pease trained some of her employees on how to move from the “nontechnical” ladder to the “technical” ladder, and almost everyone she coached moved up in the ranks (including a male manager who did not do well on a performance review, was a level below Pease and was trained by Pease herself).

“Google, however, denied Ms. Pease a fair opportunity to be paid at the same rate as similar employees on the ‘technical’ ladder. Ms. Pease’s two interviewers, both men, did not ask her any technical questions, and one interviewer did not even bother to take notes of the meeting with her,” according to the lawsuit.

Pease left the company in 2016 because of the “lack of technical and engineering opportunities” for her and other women as well as “the stalling out of her career at the company,” the lawsuit states.

Like Ellis, the third plaintiff, Wisuri, also started on a lower track than her male counterparts, according to the complaint. She started her Google career as a level 2 employee, which the suit says is the lowest available level for full time, permanent employees. In contrast, according to the lawsuit, men with similar backgrounds were started at level 3.

“Despite her sales role, Google did not place Ms. Wisuri on the Sales ladder,” the filing states. “Rather, upon information and belief, Google placed Ms. Wisuri on the Sales Enablement ladder. Unlike the Sales ladder, which is paid on commission, the Sales Enablement Ladder is compensated by salary. As a result, Sales Enablement jobs have considerably less compensation potential than Sales jobs. Almost all of the employees on the Sales teams Ms. Wisuri worked with were men. About 50% of the employees she encountered with Sales Enablement jobs, however, were women.”

Wisuri remained on the Sales Enablement ladder for her three-year tenure at Google, according to the lawsuit, and “was paid less than men for substantially equal or similar work performed under similar working conditions.” Ultimately, she resigned because of a “lack of advancement opportunities for women at Google.”

Ellis discussed the lawsuit on her Twitter account.

My hopes for the Google suit: to force not only Google, but other companies to change their practices and compensate EVERYONE fairly.

The lawsuit is about gender discrimination, but for me, this isn’t just about women. And it’s not just about Google.

“We’ve been talking about these issues for a long time, and it hasn’t really changed,” Ellis said in an interview with The Guardian. “There’s been a lot of PR and lip service, but … this is going to be one of the only ways to get these companies to change how they hire and compensate women.”

Other women are listening, the publication further reported: “James Finberg, one of the civil rights attorneys who filed the suit, told the Guardian that more than 90 women who previously worked or currently work at Google have contacted him about the class action.”

Google has already been hit with allegations of underpaying its women employees this year. In April the Labor Department accused Google of “systemic” gender pay discrimination and demanded the company provide more data about its wage practices. The company said the task, which would require about 500 work hours and $100,000, would be too expensive (despite Alphabet’s [Google’s parent company] self-reported financial growth: Ruth Porat, Alphabet’s chief financial officer, said in June of the company’s Q2 earnings, “With revenues of $26 billion, up 21% versus the second quarter of 2016 and 23% on a constant currency basis, we’re delivering strong growth with great underlying momentum, while continuing to make focused investments in new revenue streams”).

Company culture also largely came into question when a 10-page misogynist memo penned by a Google engineer slamming diversity and suggesting women are inferior as leaders was released.

To read James Damores full memo click here.

The engineer was ultimately fired. But the note was not immediately rebuked by Google’s CEO, the company’s head of human resources or the chairman of the board. Rather, Danielle Brown, the company’s brand new vice president of diversity, integrity and governance, was initially forced to speak out about the incident.

Read more news @ DiversityInc.com

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