When thousands of Google employees organized to share their salaries internally — allegedly highlighting troubling patterns in the way people were paid — Google got angry, according to a former Google engineer who wrote about the incident on Twitter on Friday.
The employee, Erica Baker, who is now an engineer at the workplace messaging company Slack, said on Twitter that "one Sunday" at her previous company, she and some coworkers "were bored" and decided to put their salaries in a spreadsheet.
"It got reshared all over the place," she tweeted. As it spread through the company, thousands of employees added their salaries and it allegedly revealed "not great things regarding pay." (See her full tweet stream here.)
Before she left the company in March, "about 5 percent" of employees shared their salary on the sheet, she tweeted. Google has over 50,000 employees, so that's roughly 2,500 people. Because of it, "people asked for and got equitable pay," she added.
So-called transparent salary policies are an increasingly trendy theory for how to level the pay playing-field in industries like tech, where often one demographic group, like men, winds up making radically more than another group, like women. With everyone's salary out in the open, it makes it harder to pay one person much more than another who is doing the same job, just because, for example, one employee negotiated harder than the other. A few startups, like Buffer and SumAll, have embraced this ideology.
At Google, though, Baker tweeted, her managers were none too pleased.
As the spreadsheet kept growing, Baker's co-workers began giving her "peer bonuses" —a $150 award Googlers can dole out to colleagues they think have done good work — for her work opening up the discussion about wages at Google. Baker said that her employers reprimanded her by repeatedly not approving the bonuses co-workers were sending to her. Some co-workers were surprised to discover that the bonuses could be revoked by one's manager, Baker tweeted.
A male colleague who had also worked on the spreadsheet, though, was still receiving bonuses, said Baker, which she saw as yet another sign of discrimination.
But Baker said the spreadsheet still kept growing, resulting in more equitable pay for some employees.
Baker, who declined an interview with Fusion, said she was sharing the incident now because of positive reaction Google got to featuring the African-American suffragist Ida B. Wells in a Google Doodle this week.
Google did not respond to requests for comment from Fusion. Update, July 21: Google sent Fusion a statement saying it has no pay gap and that employees are free to share salaries with one another.