September 19, 2023

Google’s $20K Race Pay Gap: Black Ex-Employees Share Their Insights

Google Story

Earlier this month, a leaked Google spreadsheet revealed that Black employees earn less than white colleagues, leaving questions about why this is happening and how things can change.

We spoke to Black former Google employees about their experiences of negotiating their employment contracts at the tech giant and their insights.

What did the spreadsheet reveal?

The leaked Google spreadsheet, encompassing data from over 12,000 US employees in 2022, revealed that Black employees had an average salary of $ 147,000. By contrast, white employees earned $170,000 on average.

White employees also got $40,000 more in equity and more than $10,00 more in bonuses than their Black colleagues.

This information sparked conversation online, with some saying negotiation upfront is key and that Black people getting better at asking for money will change the figures.

However, others disagreed; one Instagram user wrote, “Blaming this on negotiation tells me you don’t understand the reality is that even when negotiating, we are offered less.”

“They had actually reduced my equity” 

Ryan*, a Black former Google employee who worked as a Growth Strategist for two years, shared their experience with POCIT. 

They recounted that they decided to negotiate pay when they received an offer to join the company.

“I was given a bump up at that stage. However, I soon realized that while they had bumped up my salary, they had actually reduced my equity,” Ryan shared. “This meant there was no move in anything.”

They promptly pointed this out and were met with an apology and reassurance that it was an oversight.

The equity was then increased. However, after speaking with others within the Black Google Network, Ryan found that this wasn’t a unique situation. It had happened to others.

“Whether that was based on any characteristic, I’m not confident enough to say that, but I did experience it,” Ryan told POCIT. 

A Lack Of Confidence in Negotiating Pay

Data from Colourintech and Meta found that 56% of Black people in tech felt unable to negotiate a fair salary compared to 75% of white respondents who felt empowered to do so.

Alex, a Black former Program Manager at Google, attested to this. They told POCIT that most of their Black friends who work in similar spaces were less likely to negotiate their pay than their white friends.

Black people only make up 8% of the tech workforce, according to McKinsey & Co. This underrepresentation might contribute to the lack of confidence in salary negotiations among Black tech professionals.

While Alex felt confident in negotiating pay, they highlighted that a lack of confidence impacted many of their peers.

“When we are in tech, there is an imposter syndrome, often that we’re just lucky to be here and we shouldn’t be here,” Alex said.

“Therefore, we don’t make any noise; we just fit in and live. And I think that that is impacted by the tech companies, but is also a wider and larger issue regarding society.”

Alex advised anyone who may be going for a role in Google to negotiate before they get in and seal the deal at the company.

There are resources online, particularly YouTube, with ex-Google recruiters who specifically specialize in negotiations for Google.

“Try and reach out to people who work at Google or who have worked at Google and speak to them about this,” they said.

They also acknowledged that from personal experience, they now know if they went back into a Big Tech company, their negotiation skills would be a lot better, and they would be more equipped to do so.

Black Contract Workers At Google

In March 2022, a lawsuit accused Google of systemic racial bias against Black employees. 

The lawsuit asserted that the company steers Black employees to lower-level jobs and denies them opportunities to advance based on race.

“I think statistically 70% of that company are contractors with most minority workers fulfilling those roles.”

The suit claimed Google maintains a “racially biased corporate culture” that favored white men, where Black people comprise only 4.4% of employees and about 3% of leadership and its technology workforce.

Charlie, a Black contract worker for Google, told POCIT, “I was a contract worker for four years, and I think statistically 70% of that company are contractors with most minority workers fulfilling those roles.”

Alex was a contracted worker at Google for two years. They held a temporary worker contract, which required them to perform the duties of a regular Google employee while receiving a salary equivalent to full-time employees. 

However, they needed access to all the benefits enjoyed by permanent workers.

Alex was offered the top of the salary band that was advertised. When they tried to negotiate, they were told this was not possible.  Google cited the need to pay a third-party temp agency for more negotiation room.

In the second year, Alex got a salary increase but told POCIT that, upon reflection, they probably could have negotiated for more. 

“I think the more we recognize that if someone wants us on board, they will go above and beyond to get the pay packet we need, the better. Then we will stop being underpaid.”

In 2021, Google faced scrutiny following claims that they were underpaying contractors, especially temporary workers, relative to permanent Google employees.  Google went into an internal review and subsequently undertook payouts for the affected contractors, including Alex.

Three weeks before Alex was due to leave the company, they received an email saying they had been underpaid and their salary would increase.

Subsequently, three weeks later, they received another email saying that their pay would be backdated for an entire year.

“I think the more we recognize that if someone wants us on board, they will go above and beyond to get the pay packet we need, the better. Then we will stop being underpaid,” said Alex.

*All names have been changed to preserve the employees’ identities.

Sara Keenan

Tech Reporter at POCIT. Following her master's degree in journalism, Sara cultivated a deep passion for writing and driving positive change for Black and Brown individuals across all areas of life. This passion expanded to include the experiences of Black and Brown people in tech thanks to her internship experience as an editorial assistant at a tech startup.