UHCL The Signal
The official student newspaper of the University of Houston-Clear Lake

The U.S. Department of Labor accuses Google of underpaying female workers

The tech company has received allegations toward its pay disparities between male and female employees.


After a recent investigation, the United States Department of Labor (DoL) has accused Google of underpaying its female employees, claiming there has been significant evidence of discrimination. These allegations came after the U.S. DoL sued Google for not sharing information about employee salaries.

In January, the DoL filed a lawsuit against Google requesting that the company provide salary documentation and data to the government. Janette Wipper, a DoL regional director, recently testified in court that there were “compensation disparities against women.”

Graphic depicting women being underpaid in the work environment. Graphic by the Signal reporter Liz Lopez.
Graphic depicting women being underpaid in the work environment. Graphic by The Signal reporter Liz Lopez.

Google is a federal contractor and is, therefore, required to allow the DoL to investigate and inspect information in compliance with equal opportunity laws.

The Guardian reported that last year Google refused to hand over job and salary history to the DoL’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, which was in breach of its contractual obligations with the federal government. In the article, a Google spokesperson said that the company did, in fact, provide hundreds of thousands of documents, and stated it that the requests of the government initially outlined in the complaint were “overbroad, revealed confidential information, or violated employees’ privacy.”

Google announced April 4 on Twitter, which was Equal Pay Day, that they had “closed that gender pay gap globally.” The post was shared in an effort to promote equal pay among all employers. Three days later, the DoL testified in a federal court in San Francisco that the company had violated federal employment laws in regard to salaries for its female employees.

“Systemic sexism is an obstacle women have still not overcome,” said Kelly Meier, president of the Women Studies Student Association at the University of Houston-Clear Lake. “When women are constantly fighting for reproductive rights, other sexist practices will continue. Google should be the leaders in the tech world that support equity in employees. I would like Google to be the leaders they say they are, by implementing equity policy changes that bring women up in the tech field.”

Google is not the only tech company to come under scrutiny for its treatment of women in the workplace. Other companies in the tech industry have also been targeted for sexual harassment toward women, gender discrimination and/or unequal pay.

Uber recently made news for a sexual harassment scandal. Yahoo has also been in the news with reports stating that the company hired Thomas McInerney to replace its former female CEO as a result of a new deal with Verizon. McInerney will reportedly earn more annually than his female predecessor Marissa Mayer.

Even with these other examples of discrimination, a DoL official who spoke with The Guardian claimed that Google’s unequal pay and discrimination toward women is “extreme.”

The Signal reached out to Google for a statement with regard to the allegations toward their pay disparities between male and female employees.

“We vehemently disagree with Ms. Wipper’s claim,” said Google. “Every year, we do a comprehensive and robust analysis of pay across genders and we have found no gender pay gap. Other than making an unfounded statement, which we heard for the first time in court, the DoL hasn’t provided any data, or shared its methodology.”

Google’s Vice President of People Operations Eileen Naughton also claimed in a press statement that the company’s comprehensive annual analysis of pay equality is “extremely scientific and robust” as well as gender “blind.”

Statistics show that women make up 31 percent of Google’s workforce and 24 percent of women make up the company’s leadership roles. Of the company’s 70,000 employees, one-third of those employees are women.

“While we’ve certainly come a long way from when I first entered the workforce 15 years ago, there are still dramatic improvements to be made when it comes to the gender pay gap,” said Katharine Shilcutt, managing editor for Houstonia magazine. “Addressing the gender pay gap is just one of those important labor issues and one that needs to be focused on and enforced at a national level. I worry that the continual corrosion of labor laws will prevent the gender pay gap from being fully addressed, but I am also hopeful that more men and women will see this not just as a ‘gender’ issue but as part of a larger, systemic problem to be fixed in pursuit of protecting all Americans from predatory or unfair business practices.”

A DoL infographic states that, on average, women earn 78 cents for every dollar that men earn. A separate infographic, Breaking Down the Gender Wage Gap, showed that in 2014 women who worked full-time all year earned, on average, 79 percent of men’s median annual earnings. Statistics from these infographics also showed that women who work in the same position as their male counterparts continue to earn less.

The Breaking Down the Gender Wage Gap infographic also included unpaid labor that women participate in daily, suggesting that these duties might impede their potential to earn a higher wage. Some of these duties include providing care to their elders and performing daily household chores.

At UHCL, Amy Lucas, assistant professor of sociology and women’s studies, stated that there is often an expectation that equality in the workplace will be achieved through attaining a college education or higher. However, in 2016, the gender pay gap for those with a Bachelor’s degree was 26 percent, which was the same for those who had achieved advanced degrees.

“In 2015, the gender gap in pay in the United States was 20 percent,” Lucas said “This number is an important one, but I also feel that it reduces discussions on gender inequality in the workplace to a single number. The gender gap in pay can’t be attributed to one specific cause or source, but I do think that the gender gap in pay in general speaks to the lower value American society has placed on women and women’s work.”

Sharon Hall, professor of psychology and women’s studies at UHCL, stated that university leaders are working to ameliorate the issues of unequal pay toward their male and female employees implementing a U-wide standardized survey of faculty. Hall hopes that through this survey, the university will be able to see how women see their place and value at UHCL before working to effectively promote change.

“I know the data for female professors as it is related to male professors,” Hall said. “Women faculty make 81 cents for every dollar that male professors earn. This is congruent with the general population and jobs, as I understand it. The fact that universities are so backward about equal pay means that institutions need fixing, not the women. Universities should be leading the way in this important issue and we’re not. 10 percent of college presidents are women, 25 percent of [full-time] professors are women. What an embarrassment to us all in academia.”