Class Action Lawsuits Could Help Fight Gender Discrimination in Tech Industry
Anita Hill, who gained fame for filing a sexual harassment lawsuit against U.S. Supreme Court Judge Clarence Thomas, has written an op-ed in The New York Times about how class action lawsuits may be the answer when it comes to fighting gender discrimination, particularly in the tech industry. Hill points to the recent leak of a Google engineer’s screed against the company’s diversity initiatives as a reminder that the notion of Silicon Valley as the seat of human progress is a myth, especially when it comes to the way women are treated in that field.
Hostile Work Environment Alleged
She says the tech industry is stuck in a kind of time warp and it might actually “take the force of our legal system” to change that situation. The leaked memo Hill is referring to was titled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber,” and called on the company to replace its quest for gender diversity with a focus on “ideological diversity.” The author of the memo even claimed that biological differences make women poorly suited to engineering.
Google fired the employee responsible for writing this memo. But that doesn’t erase the attitudes and the backward thinking that led to the origin of this memo in the first place. Google is not alone in dealing with chauvinism.
An Uber employee recently published her blog post detailing her experience with the ride-sharing company’s toxic male-dominated culture after which a number of female coders and engineers have come forward detailing their experiences with sexual harassment and hostile work environments. A number of tech companies such as Google, Tesla, Microsoft, Oracle and Twitter are now facing allegations of sexism in the form of individual lawsuits and Labor Department inquiries.
The Role of Class Action Lawsuits
Hill rightly recommends that women in the industry “should collectively consider their legal options.” She gives the example of a class action lawsuit in 1996 when a group of 23 women filed a class action lawsuit against the Smith Barney stock brokerage firm alleging harassment and gender discrimination. About 2,000 women joined the lawsuit, which helped expose sexism in the workplace to the world.
While one woman trying to go against a tech giant or a large corporation may not be successful, thousands of women banding together to fight injustice, inequality and a hostile work environment doesn’t just make sense, it is truly inspiring. And more importantly, it has the potential to bring about much-needed systemic change.