Reason Roundup

Google Finds Unexpected Gender Gap in Worker Pay: Reason Roundup

Plus: Why laws to fight sex trafficking often backfire and Sen. Harris hedges on Trump money.



Gender gap in Google pay goes against prevailing perceptions. For years, folks have insisted that Google underpays its female employees. The U.S. Department of Labor even opened an investigation into just that matter two years ago. But according to a new analysis from Google, it's actually male staffers who may be missing out.

According to a Department of Labor assessment in early 2017, Google engaged in "systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce." Janet Herold, the department's regional solicitor, told The Verge at the time that the investigation was ongoing but they had "received compelling evidence of very significant discrimination against women in the most common positions at Google headquarters."

The idea that this is an ongoing problem at Google has persisted. But according to the company's latest yearly survey, more men were facing lower pay relative to women doing similar work.

The study "disproportionately led to pay raises for thousands of men," reports The New York Times.

The fact that things needed to be corrected for pro-woman bias should be seen as a good sign for women's stature and progress in the tech sector. But the study has yielded little celebration from professional gender-equality advocates.

Astonishingly, some are insisting instead that the study only masks much deeper discrimination by focusing on things like "equal pay for equal work." From the Times again:

Google seems to be advancing a "flawed and incomplete sense of equality" by making sure men and women receive similar salaries for similar work, said Joelle Emerson, chief executive of Paradigm, a consulting company that advises companies on strategies for increasing diversity. That is not the same as addressing "equity," she said, which would involve examining the structural hurdles that women face as engineers.

Google has denied paying women less, and the company agreed that compensation among similar job titles was not by itself a complete measure of equity. A more difficult issue to solve — one that critics say Google often mismanages for women — is a human resources concept called leveling. Are employees assigned to the appropriate pay grade for their qualifications? The company said it was now trying to address the issue.

If women do face discrimination in starting pay, that's certainly something worth looking at, too. But it's ironic to see some "equal pay" advocates now arguing for more nuance on the issue, when these same activists insist on lumping together all workers at all levels to make misleading proclamations like women getting only 49 cents or 77 cents for every dollar men make.


  • "Why laws to fight sex trafficking often backfire." Hallie Lieberman explains how anti-sex trafficking efforts (formerly called "white slavery," now often referred to as "modern slavery") from the Mann Act of 1910 to the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) that passed last year are rooted in "racial panic" and "fears of immigration, not combating sexual violence." (For more on this history and its current iterations, check out my 2017 Reason story, "American Sex Police.")
  • Harris hedges on Trump money. Donald and Ivanka Trump both donated to Sen. Kamala Harris' campaign for attorney general of California, with him giving $6,000 in 2011-2013 and Ivanka giving $2,000 in 2014. Harris' office told The Sacramento Bee that she had donated the money to a nonprofit promoting the rights of Central Americans. But the Bee reports that this donation didn't happen until four years after Donald Trump first funded Harris.
  • Senate has the votes to rebuke Trump. It looks like a congressional resolution overturning President Donald Trump's declaration of national emergency will really happen. The measure passed the House last week but still needs a vote in the Senate. And with Republican Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Susan Collins (Maine), and Thom Tillis (N.C.) joining Democrats in favor, the resolution has enough votes to pass. If so, it will "apparently be the first time since passage of the National Emergencies Act of 1976 that Congress has voted to overturn an emergency declaration," notes The New York Times.
  • Our forgotten culture wars: The American Family Association is feeling betrayed by Walmart after an online ad campaign featured two men on a blind date.
  • A bittersweet announcement: Law & Order: Hate Crimes is being postponed.
  • More immigrant requests are being denied. The number of immigrants deemed ineligible for permanent residence here rose 39 percent between fall 2016 and fall 2018, according to a new National Foundation for American Policy analysis of State Department data. Denials of temporary visas were also up by 5 percent.
  • What's next for the NSA? "The National Security Agency is considering ending a once-secret surveillance program that annually collects hundreds of millions of telephone call records, including those belonging to Americans, because it lacks operational value," reports the Wall Street Journal. Conor Friedersdorf with the cynical but wise response: