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March 20 2018

Google Shares How It Closed Unexplained Pay Gaps

by Patrice Lee Onwuka

Do men and women in the same jobs make the same earnings at Google? The tech company says that after intentional efforts, they do now.  

Google just released pay analysis where it finds that it had no statistical differences in pay across gender and race (in the U.S.) for almost 90 percent of its workforce (over 63,000 Googlers) except 228 workers across six jobs groups. 

To address the unexplained pay discrepancies between these 228 workers, Google bumped each of their compensations up – spending about $270,000 in total. 

According to Google, they aim for fairness in every process including the hiring process:

People processes at Google are interconnected. A Googler’s level, performance ratings, and promotion status all impact pay. So we set up these processes with controls for fairness along the way: we use data to make structured decisions, we train people to avoid bias, and we take into account multiple perspectives.  When a Noogler is hired, we assess them against a consistent set of criteria for their level using rubrics and then trained, objective reviewers make hiring decisions (not any single hiring manager). When Googlers receive performance ratings, there are multiple steps to support fair evaluations. And when a manager plans a Googler’s compensation, they must document any change they make to the Googler’s compensation -- even if it’s $1.

Is Google's method a model for other (tech) companies? Maybe.  

All private sector companies should ensure that their pay practices don't discriminate and comply with the law. Given that there is a hyper-focus on pay, gender parity and greater racial diversity in the tech industry, focusing on creating a more equitable and diverse workforce is not just required, it's also likely good business. 

However, we also shouldn't accept the idea that any and all statistical differences between men and women's earnings at a company or in an industry means that the cause is discrimination and that fairness requires zeroing out any pay gap.  

Google outlines the factors in determining compensation which include tenure, location, and performance ratings. On a national level, some of these factors join others, like occupation, age, hours worked, and education as important determinants of earnings and explain the oft-cited gender pay gap between men and women. 

Even holding aside factors like the ones noted above, work-life balance choices also impact how much women earn. This is especially true for mothers of younger children who want to work fewer hours and in jobs with greater flexibility or less stress, but that carry lower paychecks. 

When these factors drive differences in earnings, then the gap is perfectly fair.  And closing the gap wouldn't be a move toward fairness, but rather a move away from it. 

At the end of the day, there may be pay differences between men and women, but it doesn't necessarily mean that they are due to gender discrimination. Companies like Google which uncover unexplained discrepancies and voluntarily choose to close them by boosting pay is welcomed, but we can't forget that not all pay gaps need correction.  

 

Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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