Google And Slack Demonstrate The Futility Of Diversity Targets

Ever since Google first published its diversity report in 2014, tech companies and the media have become highly focused on numerical data about diversity to set corporate goals and to measure progress. We believe that this focus on numerical diversity targets is costing corporations hundreds of millions of dollars  and hampering their ability to derive the full benefits of superior performance and greater balance that diversity and inclusion can offer. We will use recent events about tech giant Google and tech darling Slack to illustrate the futility of diversity targets.

Google’s Challenge: The Complexity Of Quantifying Diversity

Google recently announced with pride that it had solved the gender pay gap, only to be accused two days later by the Department of Labor (DOL) of “systemic compensation disparities against women.”

The challenge here is that whereas a metric such as market share has a clear-cut definition, gender pay gap does not. The DOL has not provided data or the methodology used to support its claims. And while Google has released a description of how it estimates gender pay equity, their methodology leaves a lot of room for subjective interpretation: it starts by choosing 52 job categories, then compares compensation inclusive of salary, bonus and equity, and finally adjusts for “performance ratings and other variables.” But this methodology can yield an endless variety of numerical scores, for instance changing how to define job categories, or how to incorporate performance ratings (which, incidentally, may themselves be tainted by gender discrimination).

These observations show that, even though gender is arguably the simplest form of diversity to measure, a consistent definition of gender pay gap is impossible within an organization, let alone across companies or industries.

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