In a statement, Google spokesman Courtenay Mencini focused on the company’s victory in defending one of Rowe’s claims. “We are pleased that the jury unanimously found that Ms. Rowe was fairly paid and assigned from the time she was hired to the present and that she was not subsequently denied promotions,” she wrote, citing the jury’s decision not to recover compensation as Evidence that it agreed with Google’s leveling decision. “Fairness is critically important to us and we firmly believe in the fairness of our leveling and compensation processes.”
Greene disagrees that the ruling implies that Google pretty much misled Rowe. The jury concluded that Google treated Rowe less well because of her gender, she points out, and the undervaluation was one of the reasons Rowe and her lawyers used to claim unfair treatment.
Mencini says Google disagrees with the jury’s finding that Rowe discriminated against and retaliated against her. “We prohibit retaliation in the workplace and publicly share our very clear policy,” Mencini wrote. She did not comment on whether Google plans to appeal.
Claire Stapleton, one of the organizers of the 2018 strike, celebrates Rowe’s victory and recognizes the burden of speaking out. Stapleton left Google after she said the company demoted her in retaliation for her work on the strike and other acts of employee defiance, which Google has denied. “Anyone who has tried to make things fairer knows that when you file a complaint, you usually become a problem,” Stapleton says. “Ulku’s just victory should send a clear message to workers at all levels: the fight is worth it.”
Rowe says her case weighed on her for the four years it dragged on. “You go to work every day and give 100 percent as a working woman and leader, but there is this big elephant in the room that overshadows everything you do and affects every relationship.” She says she has strength drawn from other women inside and outside of Google, including members of the New York chapter of the company’s Women’s Affinity Group, of which she co-leads. “It was both encouraging and sad to hear from so many women sharing their personal stories of discrimination,” she says.
Rowe says she decided to make her case after exhausting Google’s internal channels. The company conducted two internal investigations, which Mencini called “thorough,” but found no discrimination or retaliation. At trial, however, Rowe’s lawyers were able to present evidence that was excluded from Google’s investigation, for example by hearing testimony from three of Rowe’s male colleagues who, according to Greene, were not included in the company’s second internal investigation.