Dozens of female technical employees at Microsoft are sharing gendered pay disparities and discrimination in an internal email chain that was started in May 2021. A similar chain describing gender-based microaggressions, lack of upward mobility, and pay inequity also surfaced in 2019, suggesting an ongoing toxic culture of gender-based harassment and inequality at the Big Tech company.
Leaked May 2021 internal email thread uncovers reports of pay inequity and gender discrimination at Microsoft
In May 2021, an internal work group called “Technical Women at Microsoft” started an email chain to discuss experiences of pay inequity, as well as gender and race-based discrimination, reports Insider. The conversation began when an employee asked other female co-workers to share if they believed that their compensation was comparable to that of their male colleagues. Some women in the thread stated that they have reason to believe that their male counterparts generally make more than them in both base pay and bonuses.
In an effort to promote pay equity and transparency at the company, over 1,200 Microsoft employees subsequently shared their salaries, bonus rates and other details like years of experience and demographics on a spreadsheet circulated in the email thread and later shared with Insider.
Under California labor laws and the laws of many other states, it’s illegal to pay women a different amount than their male counterparts if they are working the same position and have the same level of skill and experience. If you suspect you’re being paid less than your male counterparts or overlooked for promotions, contact our employment attorneys for a free and confidential consultation.
2021 Microsoft gender discrimination email chain includes reports of gender-based microaggressions
In addition to detailing suspected wide-spread pay inequity, the 2021 email chain includes claims of gender-based microaggressions, such as men excluding female employees from meetings and taking credit for their ideas.
One employee in the thread observed:
“Root cause of a lot of this ugly dynamic of dismissing or ignoring women in the room is too often protection of certain (no, most definitely not all) men’s egos.”
According to Insider, some of the employees say that HR and senior leaders failed to swiftly take action after hearing their reports of harassment and discrimination. One employee described her experience with HR as “futile and extremely stressful.”
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Microsoft hit with gender discrimination and harassment lawsuits and complaints over the past decade
The May 2021 email thread is sadly not the first time female Microsoft employees have voiced concerns over gender harassment and discrimination; according to Quartz, a similar internal email chain surfaced in March 2019 when a female employee who had been in the same position for 6 years asked a colleague for advice on how to move up in ranks. Other allegations shared in the thread ranged from female employees being asked to sit in male co-worker’s laps, to being called sexist names, to being asked to do administrative tasks such as booking dinner reservations, despite being in a technical role. One employee vented:
“This thread has pulled the scab off a festering wound. The collective anger and frustration is palpable.”
CNN Business reports that Microsoft was also previously hit with a lawsuit in 2015, after a computer security researcher named Katherine Moussouris claimed that she was passed over from promotions while her less-qualified male colleagues were promoted, among other allegations. The lawsuit further alleged that as a result of company-wide practices and policies, “female technical employees receive less compensation and are promoted less frequently than their male counterparts.” In 2018, a public court filing revealed that Microsoft’s alleged practices were indeed pervasive, noting that from 2010-2016, hundreds of female Microsoft employees had filed internal gender discrimination and harassment complaints.
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