He posited another explanation for the lack of women in tech: biologically based gender differences. (In short, according to him: women like people and cooperating; men like things and status.)
“We need to stop assuming that gender gaps imply sexism,” he writes.
The anonymous author claims to have received support from some of his coworkers — “Despite what the public response seems to have been, I’ve gotten many personal messages from fellow Googlers expressing their gratitude for bringing up these very important issues” — which I don’t doubt. In any forum or comment section attached to a discussion of discrimination, diversity and inclusion issues, you’ll find plenty of arguments about the non-existence of the pay gap.
The problem, of course, is that the data tell a different story.
The Gender Pay Gap Is Real, and Women Don’t ‘Choose’ to Perpetuate It
“Yes, in a national aggregate, women have lower salaries than men for a variety of reasons,” he writes. “For the same work though, women get paid just as much as men.”
This is untrue. PayScale’s report, Inside the Gender Pay Gap, offers two views of pay data: uncontrolled and controlled. The uncontrolled data show a gap of 24 percent — meaning that when we compare the earnings of all women to all men, regardless of job title, women earn 76 cents for every dollar earned by men.
But even when we control for factors like job title, job level, work experience, etc., men earn more than women. All other factors being equal, women earn 98 cents for every dollar earned by men. A 2 percent pay gap is still a gap.
Further, other studies have shown that:
- When women negotiate salary, they pay a social cost. Both men and women judge female negotiators more harshly than male ones.
- When women dominate a profession, pay declines. When men dominate a profession, pay increases.
- Although both men and women express the desire to balance career with family, women are more likely to suffer a pay penalty when they take time away from work to attend to domestic priorities.
Combine these facts with the lack of paid family leave in the U.S., and you have a situation in which even women who “choose” family over work can’t really be said to make a choice. But even for women who put work first, unconscious bias often impacts their pay and chances for promotion.A 2 percent gender pay gap is still a gap ... and women aren't perpetuating it through 'choice.'Click To Tweet
Successful Engineers Have ‘Female’ Traits
Even if we take his statements about gender as given — a big if — so-called female traits of empathy, cooperation, collaboration, etc. are not detrimental to engineering. In fact, they’re essential to creating a product that actually solves the user’s problems.
But don’t take my word for it — take a former Google engineer’s. At The Independent, Yonatan Zunger writes:
Engineering is not the art of building devices; it’s the art of fixing problems. Devices are a means, not an end. Fixing problems means first of all understanding them?—?and since the whole purpose of the things we do is to fix problems in the outside world, problems involving people, that means that understanding people, and the ways in which they will interact with your system, is fundamental to every step of building a system.
And once you’ve understood the system, and worked out what has to be built, do you retreat to a cave and start writing code? If you’re a hobbyist, yes. If you’re a professional, especially one working on systems that can use terms like “planet-scale” and “carrier-class” without the slightest exaggeration, then you’ll quickly find that the large bulk of your job is about coordinating and cooperating with other groups.
(Take a few minutes and read the whole column. It’s worth it.)
Why Promote Diversity? Because It’s Good for the Bottom Line
In her response memo to the staff, Google’s new VP of Diversity, Integrity & Governance, Danielle Brown, said in part:
Diversity and inclusion are a fundamental part of our values and the culture we continue to cultivate. We are unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success as a company, and we’ll continue to stand for that and be committed to it for the long haul. As Ari Balogh said in his internal G+ post, “Building an open, inclusive environment is core to who we are, and the right thing to do. ‘Nuff said.”
Google might also argue that it’s the smart thing to do. Ethnically diverse and gender-diverse companies outperform those with more homogeneous cultures, according to data from McKinsey. Other studies have shown that having women in leadership positions is associated with higher corporate earnings.
Bottom line, having a diverse workforce isn’t just good for individual workers. It’s good for companies, too.
Tell Us What You Think
Do you agree or disagree with the author of the original memo? We want to hear from you. Tell us your thoughts in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.