Last week an internal memo distributed to Google employees was leaked to media outlets. The email titled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber” made headlines for essentially justifying sexist beliefs. The memo stated “biological” differences were responsible for the dearth of women in the tech industry.
Twenty-six years ago Anita Hill testified against then boss, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Hill claimed that she was the subject of a number of sexual remarks while working under Thomas. In other words, Hill is more than acquainted with sexism and inappropriate comments sexual comments in the work place. The attorney and author penned an op-ed in the New York Times encouraging women who’ve been victimized by sexual discrimination to take action.
“The recent leak of a Google engineer’s screed against the company’s diversity initiatives is a reminder that the notion of Silicon Valley as the seat of human progress is a myth,” Hill’s essay began. “At least when it comes to way the women behind the latest in technology are treated.”
Hill discussed the string of stories from women, which illustrate Silicon Valley’s male-dominated culture before relaying the financial disparities hindering women in tech.
“In the tech industry, women under 25 earn on average 29 percent less than their male counterparts,” Hill wrote. “Women of all ages receive lower salary offers than men for the same job at the same company 63 percent of the time.”
The 61-year-old pointed to a recent gender pay gap lawsuit against Google to emphasize the fruitlessness of expecting the tech industry to do better by women on its own.
During Google’s May testimony, the multinational tech company alleged that gathering salary data for all of their employees would be too costly. Hill went on to encourage women looking to change their company’s sexist culture to do so through class-action lawsuits.
“Women in tech no doubt have hurdles to bringing class-action lawsuits, including the requisite preponderance of statistical evidence and the prevalence of confidentiality clauses and arbitration agreements, which are, in effect, designed to pre-empt class actions,” Hill said. “But this challenge doesn’t mean the suits cannot be brought, or won. This is a route that the women of Silicon Valley should consider, especially if regulation is not an immediate and viable solution.”
On Monday, Google fired the engineer responsible for crafting the troublesome email. But Hill said terminations don’t remedy a sexist company culture.
“The male-dominated leadership of Silicon Valley has proved unwilling or unable to solve systemic gender inequality, and the leaked Google memo should serve as an alert about how deeply and passionately anti-equality attitudes are held,” Hill concluded. “It’s time women in tech consider taking advantage of the law to disrupt the industry once and for all.”