Google Issues Impotent Response to Discrimination Accusations

A very bad look for Google.

A former Google engineer has something to say to those who fail to believe that the wage gap exists (or that corporations still employ discriminatory practices): Google sucks at diversity.

As an African American woman, Erica Baker has spent her professional life as both a gender and race minority in her field of engineering. During her time at Google, she decided to take a stand against what she saw as discriminatory employment practices by organizing a spreadsheet of her coworkers’ salaries. As more and more of her colleagues joined the effort and began to share their own stories and frustrations, Google took notice.

Baker shared what followed on and also on Twitter, earning coverage in Re\code and other pubs:

erica jotWhen Baker did not kill the spreadsheet, still more of her coworkers joined the effort for transparency and showed their support by sending her peer bonuses. Each of these bonuses, however, was withheld by her manager in what Baker could only understand as direct retaliation (and further discrimination), especially since one of her (white male) colleagues who was also actively helping to organize and disseminate the spreadsheet was allowed to keep his peer bonuses.

After Baker’s series of tweets received multiple responses from others who had faced similar treatment by the corporation (and by other companies), Google responded by writing:

“Our policy is not to comment on individual or former employees, but we can confirm that we regularly run analysis of compensation, promotion, and performance to ensure that they are equitable with no pay gap. Employees are free to share their salaries with one another if they choose.”

A fairly impotent response in the face of so much media coverage, especially with comments of solidarity from former Googlers mounting on each article. Take this one left on Jezebel’s coverage of the story, for instance:

Everything she says is true. While there are tons of great individual people at Google, and I do believe that it treats its employees in general much better than the average company, it’s just complete shit at diversity and is still a boys’ club like the rest of the Valley. The turning point for me was when my VP at the time (OF HR) called ‘black kids’ from HBCUs stupid, essentially, in front of my entire team (including the ‘black kid’ one year out of Morehouse I was mentoring, who burst into tears right after the meeting and quit the company <6 mos later!); I complained to my boss, saying it was racist, and she told me I was ‘overreacting.

In response to the deluge of tweets and comments being sent her way, Baker sent the following message in the form of multiple tweets:

To the Googlers sending me private messages about the troubles they’re having there: I’m sorry you’re experiencing distress and unhappiness.I really wish I could respond to you (many of you) directly with some secret sauce or advice about how to handle your situation. The silence caused me lots of stress, pain, & grief (previously documented here ICYMI: So I stopped being silent…You kinda want to believe you can change things, that you can make a difference, that you can make your experience better.Notice that I’m not writing this on internal G+. IMO, the only thing that will cause any significant change in your situation is to leave. that is, unless, you’ve got written proof, maybe some screenshots, and 3 forms of identification to document your complaints…So there’s my advice, advice seeking Googlers: leave.

Some advice for Google: in the face of this, a short, robotic statement is likely to do as much to protect you as an umbrella in a hurricane; Baker’s spreadsheet was tangible and measurable, which is more than we can say for the search giant’s efforts to change its culture.