Los Angeles Times
Google gender pay report rejected
Shareholders of parent Alphabet vote down proposal to look at possible disparities.
For the second year in a row, shareholders of Alphabet, the parent company of Google, voted down a proposal asking the tech giant to publish a report on possible pay disparities between its male and female employees.
The vote comes at a time when the company is grappling with a federal lawsuit tied to this issue and as the tech industry faces heightened scrutiny over compensation inequities, a lack of diversity and dysfunctional work environments.
Under the proposal, the company would measure and disclose how much its female employees make as a percentage of their male counterparts’ pay. The plan, put forward by Arjuna Capital, an investment firm, and others also called for the company to design a policy to tackle any gender pay disparity.
“Gender pay disparity is not only one of the biggest social justice issues of our time, it poses a risk to companies’ performance, brand, and investor returns,” said Natasha Lamb, Arjuna’s director of shareholder engagement, at the shareholder meeting. “This issue is particularly salient to the technology industry, which struggles to attract, retain and move women into positions of leadership.”
The board of directors told shareholders that approving the proposal would not be in the best interest of the company or its investors, according to Alphabet’s 2017 statement to stockholders. Management pointed to Google’s existing diversity reports and internal evaluations as sufficient measures to ensure pay equity among its staff. “Our board of directors does not believe that the proposal would enhance Alphabet’s existing commitment to fostering a fair and inclusive culture,” the statement said.
Like many of its peers in the tech industry, Google produces an annual report outlining the gender and ethnic makeup of its employees. The vast majority of Alphabet’s employees work for Google. But the report doesn’t outline gender pay disparities. Of the company’s global employees, 69% are male and 31% are female, according to Google’ 2016 diversity report, which captured data from the previous year. But it’s unclear how much women employees are paid relative to the men.
Apple, Amazon and Microsoft have all reported on gender pay disparity at their companies, with each claiming a discrepancy near zero. Lamb described Alphabet as a laggard compared to its peers when it comes to transparency over gender pay.
Alphabet declined to comment.
Arjuna Capital’s push for Alphabet to release its gender pay information is part of a broader campaign to address enduring gender discrimination in the American workplace. Within Silicon Valley, calls for improving diversity have only grown louder as yearly employment reports continue to show leadership teams being dominated by men.
Google is currently facing a lawsuit from the Labor Department related to unfair gender pay. The Labor Department filed the lawsuit in January after the Mountain View, Calif., company refused to turn over compensation data as part of a “routine compliance evaluation,” according to a Labor Department statement released in the same month. Labor Department lawyers have accused Alphabet of underpaying women, finding evidence of “extreme” gender pay discrimination.