Google explains its equal pay methodology in response to ‘gender pay gap’ accusations

With the U.S. government recently accusing Google of systematically paying women less than their male counterparts, the internet giant has come out guns a-blazin’ as it looks to quell

The crux of the issue stems from an ongoing lawsuit that the Department of Labor (DOL) filed against Google in January, seeking access to the company’s compensation data. Testifying in court last Friday, DOL regional director Janette Wipper said that the government had “found systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce,” according to a report in The Guardian.

The agency added that Google had refused to provide all the information requested, though Google countered that it had submitted “hundreds of thousands” of documents, but that the DOL’s requests were “overbroad in scope, or reveal confidential data,” according to TechCrunch. Google’s attorney, Lisa Barnett Sween, called the DOL request a “fishing expedition that has absolutely no relevance to the compliance review.”

With the weekend to stew under the heat of a stream of “Google’s gender pay gap” headlines, Eileen Naughton, Google’s vice president of people operations, has now responded to accusations that the company pays men more money than women for the carrying out the same roles.

“We were taken aback by this assertion [that Google doesn’t compensate women fairly], which came without any supporting data or methodology,” said Naughton. The OFCCP [Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs] representative claimed to have reached this conclusion even as the OFCCP is seeking thousands of employee records, including contact details of our employees, in addition to the hundreds of thousands of documents we’ve already produced in response to 18 different document requests.”

As part of its rebuttal, Naughton details Google’s methodology for testing its compensation practices around equal pay, though Google has actually previously published a guide for other businesses to test their own compensation practices.

In short, Google says that the analysts who calculate each employee’s suggested remuneration do so “blind” to a person’s gender, and uses only information pertaining to the role, location, job level, and performance ratings.

“Our pay equity model then looks at employees in the same job categories, and analyzes their compensation to confirm that the adjusted amount shows no statistically significant differences between men’s and women’s compensation,” added Naughton.

Above: Google’s equal pay methodology

There is one notable caveat to this methodology worth noting. According to Naughton, each employee’s manager has “limited discretion” to adjust the suggested amount manually, which does of course leave the gender pay disparity door slightly ajar, but Naughton stresses that any manager must provide a “legitimate adjustment rationale.”

It’s worth noting here that the DOL hasn’t actually detailed what evidence it has against Google, and the investigation is still ongoing. So it really is difficult to reach any meaningful conclusion at this juncture. All we know is this: the U.S. government says it has “compelling evidence of very significant discrimination against women” at Google, and Google very much disagrees.

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