Gender and the Law Prof Blog

Editor: Tracy A. Thomas
University of Akron School of Law

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Google Fires Engineer Who Opposed Gender Diversity in Workplace

Following up on the blog post Google Engineer Says Gender Diversity Initiatives Bad Idea ...  Google has now fired the engineer.  Surprising, but encouraging to see a company put support behind what are often shallow commitments to equalized workplaces.  

The company said the engineer's memo -- opposing gender diversity initiatives because of women's "neuroticism" and because women biologically prefer jobs with people and emotion rather than tech jobs with "systemic" thinking -- was "harmful" to the workplace.  The engineer has threatened to sue.  

August 9, 2017 in Business, Equal Employment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 7, 2017

Google Engineer Says Gender Diversity Initiatives Bad Idea

Diversity Programs at Google Discriminatory, Engineer Claims in Anti-Diversity Memo

A document written by an unnamed senior software engineer at Google suggesting the company encourage "ideological" rather than gender diversity, is generating anger within the company and in Silicon Valley.

Titled "Google's Ideological Echo Chamber," the male author wrote that women don't make up 50% of the company's tech and leadership positions not because of sexism but because of differences in their preferences and abilities. 

He also writes that the company's focus on diversity tends to alienate conservatives, which he believes is bad for business as conservatives tend to be more conscientious, a trait that is required for "much of the drudgery and maintenance work characteristic of a mature company."

The essay comes as Google is engaged in an ongoing effort to try to get more women and minorities into technical and leadership jobs, and as the Mountain View-based company is being investigated by the Labor Department over allegations that it does not pay men and women equally. ***

The 10-page manifesto against Google's diversity initiatives appears to have first been circulated internally at the company Friday. It was initially reported by Motherboard.

On Saturday Gizmodo published the full document, prompting a flood of angry tweets and some supporting the writer's right to free speech.

The overall tone of the essay is calm. The author acknowledges that there is bias that holds women back in tech and leadership. He doesn't suggest that women aren't capable of doing technical work but rather that the differences between men and women should be acknowledged. 

He states that women tend to be more interested in people rather than things, "empathizing vs. systemizing," whereas men have a higher driver for status and so tend to end up in leadership positions.

He also says that on average, women have more "neuroticism," as defined as "higher anxiety, lower stress tolerance."

The author doesn't believe that Google should engage in social engineering just to make its jobs equally appealing to men and women, calling "discriminatory" programs at the company available only to women and minorities.

August 7, 2017 in Business, Equal Employment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 17, 2017

Judge Narrows Scope of Government Data Request in Google Gender Pay Audit

Google Must Cough Up Contact Info for 8000 Employees in Gender Discrimination Case: But Judge Narrows Scope of US Labor Dept Request 

Google has been ordered to hand over personal details of 8,000 employees as part of an ongoing US Labor Department investigation into equal pay.

 

A judge provisionally ruled Friday that Google must provide names, personal addresses, telephone numbers and email addresses to the Labor Department's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) for 5,000 employees, upon request. After the OFCCP has interviewed a selection of these employees, it may request an additional 3,000.

 

The case began in January, when the OFCCP filed a lawsuit requesting salary structure details and employee information from Google in order to verify that the company is meeting Executive Order 11246, which prohibits federal contracts from discrimination based on race, colour, religion, sex or national origin, and gives the OFCCP authority to verify.

 

Google insists it has "closed the gender pay gap globally" and according to its *cough* internal *cough* annual analysis, provides "equal pay across races in the US".

 

But the Labor Department has said that it had "found systematic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the workforce" and requires additional information from the tech giant.

The judge's order is here, at Dept of Labor v. Google, Recommended Decision and Order (July 14, 2017). It explains the nature of the administrative audit.

I begin with an explanation of what this case is and what it is not. The Office of Federal
Contract Compliance Programs is the agency of the Department of Labor charged with auditing government contractors to determine whether they are complying with certain contractually imposed anti-discrimination and affirmative action obligations. OFCCP’s auditing activities generally are not “complaint-driven”; rather, OFCCP opens audits of federal contractors based on neutral criteria. That is how OFCCP selected Google for this audit, not because any of the more than 25,000 potentially affected employees (or anyone else) filed a complaint with OFCCP.

When OFCCP determines after an audit that a government contractor is discriminating or failing to meet affirmative action obligations, it must try to resolve the violation voluntarily and without litigation. According to OFCCP’s Regional Director (Pacific Region), these efforts lead to voluntary resolutions of about 99 percent of OFCCP’s cases.

See also:

July 17, 2017 in Business, Equal Employment, Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Flexibility as the Key to Women's Leadership and Workplace Success

Flexibility Will Close the Women's Leadership Gap

New data shows that women are underrepresented in the highest levels of leadership because they are being forced out by dated workplace structures. These structures, which do not represent the modern needs of a two-income household labor force, are causing millions of talented employees to fail, especially working mothers—and the result is massive attrition at every point in the leadership pipeline.

 

Contrary to popular belief, the majority of women who leave the corporate workforce actually want to stay. A recent Bain study showed that women value flexibility over and above any other factor in their career search, including compensation, title, and location. Of the 30 percent of credentialed women who drop out of the workforce, 70percent say they would have stayed if they had access to flexibility. This amounts to 6.6 million women—enough to dramatically increase the number of women in leadership and rapidly accelerate the advancement of corporate gender equality.

 

Strategic workplace flexibility is the easiest and most cost effective way to retain women in the workplace and advance them to positions of leadership over time.

 

While many companies have demonstrated a commitment to helping women advance to positions of leadership, they remain largely unsuccessful because strategic flexibility is not a key component of their programming. When companies do provide flexibility programs, they are often underutilized or fail entirely because flexibility is misunderstood. Women tend to not take advantage of existing flexibility policies due to a fear that their requests will make them appear less committed and a concern that flexibility policies will not be faithfully implemented.

 

Flexibility isn’t simply working from home via video conference or a lifestyle perk like free cereal; it’s a fundamental shift in the way we think about and expect our employees to work. Flexibility does not alter a job’s scope of responsibilities or expected results—it simply modifies the existing agreement between the employer and employee to increase compatibility. And when it’s negotiated in a standardized context, it normalizes the conversation around flexibility and eliminates the bias or discomfort women tend to feel during the interview and hiring process.

March 28, 2017 in Business, Work/life, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Job Segregation as the Cause of Continued Unequal Pay and Some Employer Strategies to Redress

Tesla's Sexism Case Exposes a Major Reason for the Gender Gap

Despite progress, the U.S. labor market continues to be segregated by gender, one of the most significant factors contributing to the gender wage gap. The majority of women work in jobs primarily done by other women, such as nursing, and an even larger share of men work in jobs primarily done by other men, such as engineering. And, female-dominated jobs tend to pay much less, often despite similar skill requirements, than male-dominated ones. In fact, renowned economists Francine Blau and Lawrence Kahn estimate that about half of the overall gender wage gap in the economy is due to job segregation: Women make 80 cents for every dollar earned by a man, but of the 20 percentage points that stand between women and equal pay, about 10 percentage points are due to this segregation in the labor market (the rest of the gap is due to a combination of factors like education, time in the workforce, and yes, discrimination).*

 

Fortunately, some high-tech companies are taking the lead, voluntarily revealing the gender or racial composition of their workforce (like Facebook and Google), conducting internal pay audits (like Pinterest and Redfin), and spending money to bring women’s pay up (Salesforce and Intel).

Research from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research points to some lessons tech companies can learn before they ever reach the courtroom. Basic and relatively easy company practices that improve pay and promotion outcomes, such as posting all job openings, using panels (rather than a single supervisor) to determine pay increases and promotions, and making expectations for jobs clear and transparent to all are a great first step.

March 14, 2017 in Business, Equal Employment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Empirical Research on Gender Diversity of Dutch Corporate Boards as Statutorily Required

Rosalien Diepeveen, Tineke Lambooy & Remko Renes, The Two-Pronged Approach of the (Semi) Legal Norms on Gender Diversity: Exploratory Empirical Research on Corporate Boards of Dutch Listed Companies

In this article, two different perspectives on diversity and gender equality in boards of listed companies in The Netherlands are discussed: first, the diversity perspective which focuses on better decision-making capabilities of gender-diverse teams (i.e. the economic perspective), and second, the gender equality perspective which aims to realise gender equality in all levels of society pursuant to international human rights treaties and national law (i.e. the rights-based perspective).

This two-pronged approach is presented as follows: on the basis of a literature study and desk research, the authors first set out the views discussed in the extant literature on the economic perspective and, next, the legal context applicable to the rights-based perspective. Subsequently, the application in practice of these two perspectives are tested by analysing unique empirical data collected by the authors from listed companies in The Netherlands.

The empirical data are collected in two studies assigned by the Dutch Corporate Governance Code Monitoring Committee (the Committee) to the authors in 2014 and 2015. This Committee annually reports on the compliance by listed companies with the Dutch Corporate Governance Code (the Code). One of the areas of concern is diversity in corporate boards as, since 2008, the Code requires that companies have a policy to realise a diverse board composition, gender being one of the indicators. The Code applies on a comply or explain basis.

The empirical study revealed that Dutch companies, in their annual reporting on their board diversity policies, often referred to the Dutch corporate law provision concerning the gender quota. This provision requires of large companies that their corporate boards (both the board of directors and the supervisory board) comprise at least 30 per cent women and at least 30 per cent men. Like the Code, this legal provision also applies on a comply or explain basis. This law had been enacted for a limited period of time, i.e. from 2013 until 2016, but a legislative proposal is pending to extend the application of this quota provision until 2020.

The authors discovered that the two perspectives (i.e. the economic and the rights-based perspectives) are often mixed up by companies, government representatives and institutions, and other parties (together: stakeholders) who deal with the theme of (gender) diversity in corporate boards. In this article, the authors elaborate on these two perspectives, raise questions in regard to the application of the (semi-)legal norms in this area, and share innovative findings regarding the measures taken by progressive Dutch listed companies in order to realise a diverse board composition, and in particular to comply with the statutory quota on female board representation.

February 22, 2017 in Business, International | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 9, 2017

Reconsidering the Remedy of Gender Quotas in the US

I have just published the essay Reconsidering the Remedy of Gender Quotas, Harv. J. Gender & Law (online) (Nov. 2016).  It takes on the question of the legality of instituting a more permanent, structural reform for gender equality through the judicial mechanism of quotas.

Rather than stumbling along the path of continued sex discrimination by the ineffective application of judicial Band-Aids to systemic problems, it is time for alteration of the power structure itself. It’s time for the law to endorse the equal representation of women in all power venues in order to remedy—permanently—longstanding, resistant systemic sex discrimination.5 And the way to achieve this goal of gender parity might be quotas.

 

“Quota” is a dirty word. In U.S law and society, we are “quota-phobic,” vehemently resisting an idea alleged to be based on political correctness in place of merit. Quotas, however, offer a powerful systemic remedy that can reach entrenched bias and provide meaningful and tangible change - virtually overnight as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's cabinet decision of 50/50 shows.

 

A quota remedy would require gender parity—proportional representation of women in positions of power. The proportion would match the gender distribution of the general population; so women as about 51% of the population should constitute 51% of the managers, boards, CEOs, legislatures, and law firm partners, as well as STEM majors and law students. Judges too, would then be 51% women (although Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg suggested she would not stop there, opining that the Supreme Court would have the right number of women justices “[w]hen there are nine.”).

 

This article first demonstrates the longstanding ineffectiveness of other remedies for systemic sex discrimination and the power quotas potentially offer. It then discusses the use of gender quotas for European corporate boards, academic advisory boards, and political representatives to show the viability of gender quotas as a legal solution. Finally, it concludes that gender quotas as a judicially-imposed remedy would survive constitutional scrutiny under the Supreme Court's existing intermediate scrutiny standard.

 

Gender quotas have been highlighted in several places recently, including:

    United Nations "Planet 50-50 by 2030" Campaign for Women's Rights

    United Nations Council

    The Newsweek writers' settlement portrayed in the TV series (and book) "Good Girls Revolt"

    The ABA Rule mandating diverse CLE panels

    A lawsuit challenging the gender and minority quotas for the Texas State Bar Board

    Federal contracts to small business owners

 

 

January 9, 2017 in Business, Constitutional, Courts, International, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 13, 2016

European Corporate Board Quotas are Working

You Know Those Quotas for Female Board Members in Europe? They're Working

Business people tend to hate governments telling them what to do, and the quotas on female board members imposed on companies by a handful of European countries are no different. But here’s the thing: If a goal of the quotas is to bring more women into the top ranks of business, they seem to be working.

 

That’s the view of Rajeev Vasudeva, the CEO of Egon Zehnder, one of Europe’s largest executive search firms. Vasuveda said he’s no fan of quotas, but concedes they’re having an impact. “I’m not a great supporter of quotas but in this case it’s making difference,” he said in an interview. “It has changed the conversation—it clearly has been put on the agenda of companies.”

 

Norway was the first to introduce quotas for women in 2003, requiring that public companies fill at least 40% of their board seats or risk dissolution. Iceland, Spain and France followed with 40% targets—although with less severe penalties—and other countries have lower thresholds. Last year, Germany became the largest economy to impose a quota, mandating 30% of supervisory board seats be filled by women

May 13, 2016 in Business, International | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

New SSRN eJournal "Female Leadership Challenges" Blends Law, Finance & Economics

From the announcement:

We are pleased to announce a new MRN Leadership Research Network (MRN-LRN) Sponsored Subject Matter eJournal - Female Leadership Challenges eJournal, sponsored by Women in Leadership Research Network at UNSW Business School.

Sponsored by...
Women in Leadership Research Network
at UNSW Business School

Women in Leadership Research Network Logo

FEMALE LEADERSHIP CHALLENGES eJOURNAL
View Papers: http://ssrn.com/link/Female-Leadership-Challenges.html
Subscribe: http://hq.ssrn.com/jourInvite.cfm?link=Female-Leadership-Challenges

Editor: Renée B. Adams, Professor, University of New South Wales, Director, Financial Research Network (FIRN), Research Associate, European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI).

Sponsor: The Women in Leadership Research Network connects finance, economics and law faculty at UNSW with other academics and organizations interested in fresh thinking and creative solutions to female leadership challenges.

Description: This eJournal includes working and accepted paper abstracts and other scholarly works, such as book chapters and review articles, on the topic of the barriers to and the consequences of female leadership. We are interested in the role of culture, stereotypes and household production in women's career progression. We are interested in how barriers to female leadership and selection shape female leadership outcomes. We are interested in the role policy has to play in overcoming these barriers. We welcome fresh thinking on female leadership challenges from any discipline, particularly work that takes causal identification seriously.

Advisory Board
ROSALIND DIXON
Professor, University of New South Wales (UNSW) - Faculty of Law

GIGI FOSTER
Associate Professor, UNSW Business School, School of Economics

PAULINE A. GROSJEAN
Associate Professor, UNSW Business School, School of Economics



HOW TO SUBSCRIBE
You can subscribe to the eJournal, by clicking on the "subscribe" link listed above.

December 2, 2015 in Business, Call for Papers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Gender Lens Investing

NYT, With an Eye to Impact, Investing Through a "Gender Lens"

ELLEN REMMER had wanted to align her investments with her values for years, seeking to put her money into stocks and bonds that would have an impact beyond the returns. For her, this meant investing in organizations that either improved the lot of women and girls or helped the environment.

 

Doing so took longer than she expected. Even though it was her money, it was held in trust. She said it wasn’t easy to persuade the trusts’ advisers to change their investment policies. ****

 

In its annual survey, the Global Impact Investing Network found that a third of all respondents were interested in making investments that promote gender equality and women’s empowerment through both debt and equity investments in the United States and emerging markets. Some investors seek out female entrepreneurs and give them money. Others invest in companies like those that provide clean-burning cook stoves to women in Africa and Latin America.

 

Patricia Farrar-Rivas, a partner at Veris Wealth Partners, a wealth management firm that invests $800 million on an impact basis, said gender lens investing is now the most popular of its five impact strategies. (The others are aimed at environment and climate change, community and economic development, sustainable food systems and agriculture, and “sustainable mind-set and mindfulness” — or companies that take their time making investments.)

 

Despite this increased interest, gender lens investment can seem hard to do. “It’s an area where it’s difficult to gauge supply and demand because much of the demand doesn’t know the supply exists,” Mr. Bouri said.

August 15, 2015 in Business | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 7, 2015

Trump and Women

Donald Trump's unforgettable performance in the GOP debate last night is now well publicized.  

Among the several provocative comments he uttered, one is especially noteworthy.  During an exchange with Megyn Kelly of Fox News, who had asked him to respond to charges that he was a misogynist, he snapped at her and made a vague threat.  

Today's WaPo contains some discussion about Trump's views on women.  

“I don’t know why, but I seem to bring out either the best or worst in women.”

So wrote Donald Trump in his 1997 book, “Trump: The Art of the Comeback.”At the time, the real-estate billionaire was dealing with the end of his second marriage, so a little bitterness might be expected. Yet, throughout Trump’s books — particularly in his three memoirs, “Trump: The Art of the Deal”(1987), “Trump: Surviving at the Top” (1990) and “The Art of the Comeback” — he writes at length on his personal relationships, his experiences with women in marriage and in the workplace, even his dating life.

A memorable excerpt from the WaPo piece, quoting The Donald: 

“Women have one of the great acts of all time. The smart ones act very feminine and needy, but inside they are real killers. The person who came up with the expression ‘the weaker sex’ was either very naive or had to be kidding. I have seen women manipulate men with just a twitch of their eye — or perhaps another body part.” (“Trump: The Art of the Comeback”)

August 7, 2015 in Business, Manliness, Masculinities, Media, Pop Culture | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Companies Adopt More Expansive Parental Leave Policies

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

EEOC Conciliation Ruling - Good or Bad for Businesses?

We posted posted about the new decision Mach Mining v. EEOC upholding limited judicial review for the EEOC's conciliation process.

Here's more commentary about the case: WSJ, Legal Experts Weigh in on Supreme Court's EEOC Ruling

Business litigants in recent years have notched a number of victories in cases before Supreme Court. But Wednesday’s high court ruling in a dispute over the government’s handling of discrimination complaints gives employers little to cheer, according to legal experts.

 

While the Supreme Court handed business a narrow and technical victory – ruling that courts do have limited power to review how the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission handles discrimination complaints before it decides to sue an employer – some lawyers familiar with the issues say that the long-term gain is for employees.

 

“I think it’s unambiguously a win for the EEOC and complainants,” University of Colorado law professor Melissa Hart, who specializes in civil procedure and employment discrimination, told Law Blog on Wednesday.

May 12, 2015 in Business, Equal Employment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 4, 2015

"A Professor Finds Gender Bias on Wall Street"

From the WSJ: 

Men and women have different experiences when it comes to Wall Street careers. And those differences fascinate Lily Fang.

Dr. Fang, an associate professor of finance on the Singapore campus of the business school Insead, has spent the past five years or so delving into how gender affects the career-development paths of stock-research analysts on Wall Street. What she and co-author Sterling Huang of Singapore Management University found was that the networking and personal connections that male analysts rely on so heavily to get ahead are much less useful for women in similar jobs.

May 4, 2015 in Business, Theory, Work/life, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Are Law Firms that Represent Men Only Illegal?

My colleagues and I have been discussing this issue. In the family law context, there is a rise of law firms that represent only male parties, often due to an affiliation with the father's rights movement. 

For example:

http://www.menonlyfamilylawonly.com/

 http://www.mensdivorcelaw.com/

 http://cordellcordell.com/offices/florida/

We didn't come up with any answers, just flagged some of the questions:

    Does the civil rights law apply? Are law firms "public accommodations" under the Civil Rights Act? They are defined as public accommodations under the ADA - any relevance? Is the licensing of lawyers sufficient state action? Maybe the commerce clause?

    Don't lawyers have the right to choose their own clients? A First Amendment right of association?  Or what about a religious right under Hobby Lobby?

    What about ethical rules for lawyers against discrimination?

Here is an older law review article on the topic: Samuel Stonefield, Lawyer Discrimination Against Clients (1998)

 

April 25, 2015 in Business, Family, Gender | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

CFP: Female Perspectives on Commercial and Consumer Law

Call for Papers: Female Perspectives on Commercial and Consumer Law at AALS

AALS SECTION ON COMMERCIAL AND RELATED CONSUMER LAW
AALS SECTION ON WOMEN IN LEGAL EDUCATION

The AALS Section on Commercial and Related Consumer Law is pleased to announce a Call for Papers for its program co-sponsored by the Section on Women in Legal Education during the AALS 2016 Annual Meeting.  The papers from the program will be published in the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law.

Female scholars have made pivotal contributions to the development of commercial and consumer laws and scholarship in the United States, especially in the past few decades.  Not only have specific women’s voices played an important role, but distinctively feminist concerns have engendered changes in legal theory and policy.  This panel will discuss the contributions that specific female legal academics have made to the field (as just a few examples, Elizabeth Warren and Jean Braucher).  Also, it will reflect on how feminist concerns have influenced commercial and consumer law scholarship. Finally, it will also include scholarship focused on women’s experiences with consumer and commercial law.

The Committee invites submissions from scholars interested in presenting at the program and in publishing their papers with the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law.  Two speakers will be selected from this call for papers.  The panel is focused on “female perspectives,” broadly construed. The Section strongly encourages proposals from all genders.

There is no formal requirement as to the form or length of proposals. Preference will be given to proposals that are substantially complete and to papers that offer novel scholarly insights.

Per AALS rules, only full-time faculty members of AALS member law schools are eligible to submit a paper to a Section’s call for papers. Fellows from AALS member law schools are also eligible to submit a paper but must include a CV with their proposal.  All panelists, including speakers selected from this Call for Papers, are responsible for paying their own annual meeting registration fee and travel expenses.

Deadline: AUGUST 15, 2015. We will make decisions shortly after that date.  Please email submissions, in Word or PDF format, to the Program Committee c/o Jim Hawkins at jrhawkins@uh.edu with “AALS Submission” in the subject line. Before sending, please remove all identifying information from the Word or PDF document.

April 21, 2015 in Business, Call for Papers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Boston Scientific Gender Discrimination Suit Alleges Two-Track System

Boston Globe, Boston Scientific Firm Hit with $50M Gender Discrimination Suit

A female former manager and a current executive are suing a California subsidiary of Boston Scientific Corp. for $50 million, asserting that the medical device company discriminates against female sales representatives by assigning them to less profitable territories and giving them higher quotas and lower commissions than male counterparts.

 

Plaintiffs Denise Fretter, a regional sales manager in Ohio, and Maria Korsgaard, a former territory manager in Nevada, state in the suit that Boston Scientific Neuromodulation Corp., in Valencia, Calif., pays its female sales reps less than males, even when they outperform the men.

 

March 21, 2015 in Business, Equal Employment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Novartis Hit with Multi-Million-Dollar Gender Discrimination Suit...Again

Reuters, Novartis Unit Hit With $110M Gender Discrimination Suit

 A new $110 million lawsuit filed on Tuesday claims a U.S. division at Swiss drugmaker Novartis has routinely denied female employees equal pay and promotional opportunities, five years after the pharmaceutical giant was hit with a nine-figure jury verdict over similar claims.

 

The proposed class action suit filed in U.S. federal court in Manhattan says Texas-based Alcon Laboratories Inc, which was acquired by Novartis in 2010, maintains a "boy's club atmosphere" that is hostile to women and bars them from leadership positions.

 

An spokeswoman at Alcon, which specializes in eyecare products, deferred questions to Novartis Corp, which did not immediately return a request for comment.

 

A U.S. jury in 2010 ordered Novartis to pay more than $250 million in a separate class action that alleged widespread gender discrimination. At the time, it was the largest award in an employment discrimination case in U.S. history.

 

The company at the time said it would adopt reforms to prevent discrimination and retaliation against employees who complained.

March 17, 2015 in Business, Equal Employment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Throwback Sexism

Joan Williams, The Throwback Sexism of Kleiner Perkins, Harvard Business Review.

The high-profile gender discrimination lawsuit by Ellen Pao against the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins is being discussed as if it’s emblematic of gender bias in tech. And in some ways, it is.

 

Pao’s attorney has argued that women were held to different standards from men. And that women were asked to do the “office housework”—such as being asked to take notes at a meeting, when taking notes precluded them from meaningful participation. The evidence presented so far also suggests that women at the firm do walk a tightrope between being seen as too passive and too harsh. Moreover, she claims, she was denied opportunities because she was pregnant. That’s three out of the four basic patterns of subtle bias I’ve identified in my research on professional women. Not bad for a day’s work.

 

But Pao v. Kleiner Perkins is not just about the kind of subtle stereotyping that’s common at many large tech companies. Much of what Pao describes is something quite different: an atmosphere straight from the blatant bias playbook

 

The Kleiner Perkins described by Pao fits this description. She reports being pressured into a sexual relationship with a male partner, Ajit Nazre. Another female partner whom Nazre pressured to have sex with him, Trae Vassallo, told an investigator hired by the firm that Nazre was “preying on female partners” and that she was constantly fending off his advances, in just the kind of sexualized atmosphere Ely’s 20-year-old study described. (Kleiner Perkins ultimately fired Nazre.) Another male partner told Vassallo she should be flattered by Nazre’s attention. A third gave her a sexually explicit book as a present for Valentine’s Day and invited her out to dinner, saying his wife was out of town. Other partners, on a business trip with Pao, discussed with a portfolio CEO and co-investor their delightful time with porn stars at the Playboy mansion, their sexual partner preferences, and more — “an adult cable show that involved sexual acts, they were discussing the Victoria’s Secret runway show, they were discussing older men they knew who were dating younger women, and they had a comment on Marissa Mayer being hot so Dan would let her on his board,” to quote Pao’s testimony. It all sounds more like the Anita Hill hearings or the Tailhook scandal than a modern-day lesson in subtle stereotyping.

March 17, 2015 in Business, Equal Employment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Bidding Preferences for Women-Owned Companies

Riggins v. Polk County, 2015 WL 1037245 (11th Cir. Mar. 11, 2015)

David Riggins challenged, on equal protection grounds, a Polk County ordinance that grants women-owned and minority-owned business enterprises bidding for municipal contracts the opportunity to match the lowest qualifying bid if their original bid was within five percent of the lowest bid. ***

"Mr. Riggins, a white male, brought a pro se action under 42 U .S.C. § 1983 against Polk County, alleging race and gender discrimination in the bidding award of Polk County Quote 12–037. Mr. Riggins alleged in his amended complaint that he submitted the lowest qualified bid for Quote 12–037 on behalf of his company, D.C. Riggins, Inc. He attached to his initial complaint an “Invitation to Quote” sent from Polk County to D.C. Riggins, Inc., inviting the company to submit a bid for Quote 12–037 and instructing that the award would be made based on the overall low bid. Polk County Ordinance 10–005, however, provides a preference for women-owned and minority-owned business enterprises, which allows such businesses to match the lowest qualifying bid if their original bid was within five percent of the lowest bid. Mr. Riggins' complaint alleged that, by operation of Ordinance 10–005's price-matching preference, Quote 12–037 was awarded to the second-lowest bidder, a business that was given preference because it was owned by a woman. Mr. Riggins therefore asserted that Polk County discriminated against him based on his race and gender and that Ordinance 10–005 violated his equal protection rights."

The court held the case had to be brought by the company, and not the owner.

March 14, 2015 in Business | Permalink | Comments (0)