Tech, News, Now + Beyond

The stark reality about gender inequality in 4 tech giants

When the biggest, wealthiest tech companies refuse to pay and hire women equally, what example is set for the rest?

Google is in hot water after the U.S. Department of Labor regional director Janette Wipper testified on an ongoing investigation on Google’s employment practices. They are subject to DoL oversight as Google is a federal contractor. In her words, the DoL “found systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce.” The final numbers are not out yet and the investigation is not complete, but the statement is hardly a surprise. Neither was the reaction from Google, which in the absence of firm numbers, denied the accusation. The fact is that the largest, wealthiest tech companies in the world have been getting away with underpaying and under hiring women, often while putting on a show of gender equality promotion. The reality is, if these companies really valued women they would pay them fairly and equally to the men doing the same work. Rhetoric means nothing without compensation and when the public overlooks unfair employment practices in our rush to praise innovative, “cool” tech companies, we are condoning those practices.

@Buffer has completely transparent salaries whereas most tech giants do not. Click To Tweet

So, let’s get beyond the romanticized culture and look at what these companies say, vs. what they actually do.

Information about workforce representation is available because, in the United States, firms are legally mandated to submit their numbers to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Of course, any other information that we have for any of these tech giants is self-reported. The federal government doesn’t have the ability to scrutinize the wages of non federal contractors the way it can Google’s. It is clear that we cannot trust self-reporting in tech to ensure that there is equality, particularly in the way women, as well as gender minorities, are paid.

1. Google 

Percentage of women overall:  31%

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Tech jobs: 19%

Non-tech jobs: 47%

In Leadership: 24%


What about equal pay?
What they say:

In a blog post in response to the DoL testimony, Google said: “Our analysis gives us confidence that there is no gender pay gap at Google.” In 2016, then VP of People Operations, Lazlo Bock published and an op-ed in the Washington Post outlining exactly how Google was fixing the problem of equal pay. He said that salaries were determined based on the value of the job, not the applicant. In their blog post, Google pointed to that piece and re-asserted that there is no gender pay gap at the company.

What do we know?

Not much. All we know now is what the Department of Labor has testified about- but the words ” discrimination against women in Google is quite extreme, even in this industry” from Janet Herald of the DoL are pretty damning. We won’t know the details until the investigation is complete, but it doesn’t look good. Google did not take the Obama White House Equal Pay Pledge nor do they have a dedicated equal pay initiative.

2. Facebook

Percentage of women overall:  33%

Tech jobs: 17%

Non-tech jobs: 47%

In Leadership: 27%


What about equal pay?
What they say:

The head of HR at Facebook, Lori Goler announced last year on equal pay day that “I’m proud to share that at Facebook, men and women earn the same.”

What we know: 

Nothing other than what the company reports. There isn’t any proof of this claim and Facebook doesn’t have to share that data. Facebook did not take the Obama White House Equal Pay Pledge nor do they have a dedicated equal pay initiative.

3. Apple

Percentage of women overall:  32%

Tech jobs: 23%

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Non-tech jobs: 38%

In Leadership: 28%


What they say:

On their website, Apple says this “We’ve achieved pay equity in the United States for similar roles and performance. Women earn one dollar for every dollar male employees earn. And underrepresented minorities earn one dollar for every dollar white employees earn.”

What we know:

Nothing but what has been shared by Apple. Apple did not take the Obama White House Equal Pay Pledge, nor do they have a dedicated equal pay initiative.

4. Microsoft

Percentage of women overall:  26%

Tech jobs: 18%

Non-tech jobs: 40%

In Leadership: 18%


What about equal pay?
What they say:

On their blog last year Microsoft announced their pay was equal, saying, “Today, for every $1 earned by men, our female employees in the U.S. earn 99.8 cents at the same job title and level.”

What we know: 

Microsoft signed the Obama White House Equal Pay Pledge. There is a number on the diversity page of their website but complete data is not public.

The situation isn’t good and until companies are made to be transparent about their salaries, we will simply have to take their word for it. Buffer, for example, have completely transparent salaries though they are only 75 people so it is easier for them to be totally open. Women and gender minorities deserve better. We deserve representation and equal pay and we must demand that from the companies which make the most money and are leaders in tech. For information on more companies, check out Blendoor.

Katherine Kaestner-Frenchman

Katherine Kaestner-Frenchman is passionate about wine, travel, feminism, and foreign policy. She is a nomad and TCK who's lived in 12 countries and cities around the world and doesn't really know where home is.

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