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Why gender-based discrimination is prevalent in the tech industry

Following the #MeToo movement, claims of sexual harassment were filed against individuals at companies including Apple, Google Tesla and Uber
© Creative Computing Institute

What are the knock-on effects of gender inequalities in the technology industry? In 2017, a group of over 60 current and former employees began the process of suing Google, bringing forth accusations of pay disparity and sexual discrimination (1).

The lawyer for the case stated: “Google has a pattern and practice of channelling women with comparable education and experience into lower-salary levels.” The employees alleged Google tied starting salary to prior pay as part of its job classification system, perpetuating wage inequality. Google has since abandoned this system, but the employees state that Google has yet to address the company’s historical inequalities.

Sexual harassment

Issues of sexual harassment are prevalent in the tech industry. Following the #MeToo movement, numerous claims of sexual harassment were filed against individuals from technology companies including Apple, Google Tesla and Uber (5). Equally, many stories emerged about individuals from smaller startups, with reports of Silicon Valley having a rampant culture of sexual misconduct and discrimination.

In a recent survey of 200 women working in the area, 60% said they had experienced some form of sexual harassment (6). In India, tech entrepreneur Binny Bansal, co-founder of the country’s biggest e-retailer Flipkart, made an abrupt exit from the company following an independent probe into allegations of sexual assault, further catapulting the country into the MeToo movement (7).

In many countries around the world, the discrimination laws that protect cisgender people do not extend to trans people, giving employers the right to not hire someone they believe to be trans or even end their employment. The Trump administration attempted to roll back trans protections across many areas in America, from access to healthcare to their ability to join the military. Big tech companies were quick to call out the administration’s actions, with Apple, Facebook and Google all releasing statements.

‘Openly transphobic’

In 2019, Google’s actions were again called into question when they appointed Kay Cole James as part of their AI Advisory board, an individual who has been openly transphobic, anti-LGBTQ and anti-immigrant. Trans-advocacy groups were quick to call out Google’s previous statements in support of trans rights as tokenistic (8).

Following all of this, the US Supreme Court went on to debate the right for an employer to fire someone simply because they are trans. While they eventually ruled in favour of protecting trans people, trans people were again subjected to having their rights debated in the media and in the courts by cisgender people.

References

  1. Sam Levin, 2017. More than 60 women consider suing Google, claiming sexism and a pay gap, The Guardian.
  2. Kari Paul, 2020. Women at Google miss out on thousands of dollars as a result of pay discrimination, The Guardian.
  3. Google’s ideological echo chamber, Wikipedia.
  4. Daisuke Wakabayashi and Katie Benner, 2018. How Google protected Andy Rubin “the father of android”, The New York Times.
  5. Sam Levin, 2017. Start up workers see sexual harassment on a breathtaking scale in Silicon Valley, The Guardian
  6. Elephant In the Valley
  7. Bruce Einhorn and Bhuma Shrivastava, 2018. Indian tech billionaire’s exit pulls corporate India deeper into #MeToo firestorm, Insurance Journal.
  8. Colin Lecher, 2019. Inside the employee backlash against the heritage foundation, The Verge.
© Creative Computing Institute
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Gender-Inclusive Approaches in Technology

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