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September 15 2017

Does Google Have a Wage Gap?

by Hadley Heath

The answer to the question "Does Google have a wage gap?" is likely yes.

Almost every company, government office, or nonprofit (except IWF of course!) has a wage gap between male and female employees. This is because, on average, men work longer hours and take more senior positions (likely because men less often take time out of the workforce to care for children). Even the Obama White House paid women less, and then-Press Secretary Jay Carney defended their pay scale by criticizing the data used to measure it. He said the studies "looked at the aggregate of everyone on staff, and that includes from the most junior levels to the most senior."

This is also the trouble with the latest headline about alleged pay discrimination at Google: incomplete data. Employees put together a spreadsheet with pay information, and the spreadsheet suggests that women are paid less. The spreadsheet actually *does* attempt to correct for different levels of seniority, and a New York Times analysis of the data shows women are paid less at five of six levels. But seniority isn't the only factor to consider: There's location, performace, role, tenure, and other factors that could influence how women and men are paid at Google (just as these factors influence how people are paid everywhere). 

Take a look at IWF's wage gap video for a refresher course on how to interpret aggregate wage gaps:

We should not jump to conclusions because a wage gap appears. Google, like any employer, should be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Of course, this is not to say that gender-based wage discrimination never takes place. Sadly, it does. And it's illegal. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 both outlaw sex-based wage discrimination, and those who violate these laws should be prosecuted to the fullest extent.

The Google employees' spreadsheet deserves further scrutiny, but at first glance, it's not a complete picture of pay at Google.  

This incident actually supports a recent move by the Trump Administration to rescind a pending rule from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that would have gathered data on groups of workers based on race and sex. This data might be interesting, but without context, it's not evidence of discrimination. However, we know from experience that there are those who seek to mislead women by jumping on every perceived inequality without pausing to ask important questions.

In other words: Does Google have a wage gap? Likely yes. Does Google discriminate against women? That's a different question. But a raw wage gap alone certainly isn't enough evidence to say yes. 

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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