Gender Pay Gap at Google and the Wages of YouTube Twerking

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Got Hired at UAlbany

Been a long time since my last post. Been hard at work and landed myself a new position at the University of Albany. I will be returning to a music department where I will teach Black American Music and a new course on Music and Interactive Media. My primary focus however will be my new research on race, gender, and technology in online musical spaces and information from YouTube to Wikipedia.

This past week, I began working on a new article about the sexploitation of tween girls in YouTube twerking videos that were uploaded from 2009 to 2014 (just a year after the Miley twerk-a-thon at the VMAs).

I was about to head out to take care of some chores when I read info about a pattern of gender discrimination against women at Google on the NASDAQ website It was reported from Zach’s investing firm yesterday.  It seems the gender pay gap and systematic discrimination in the area of compensation is something that plagues the culture of YouTube’s parent company Google. Think patriarchal oppression. But they’d never write that into the copy.

YouTube videos and gender demographics

When I first began researching twerking videos on YouTube, I remember there was a FAQ section on their help site that asked why females 13-17 were dominating traffic to popular videos, as if that was a personal problem not a form of public praise, and the answer that was provided stunned me. “We don’t know.”

They may have genuinely not known but that seems queer given when we know about the analytics of the social web. They know just about everything quantitatively and with predictive analytics and metrics they know quite about each user qualitatively. What users buy, where they go after visiting the site, their demographics which is bigger than the public demographics general users see–age, gender, and sometimes nation.

YouTube meets Billboard June 2013

Back in the old days you could see details about individual users and you could see the breakdown by age, gender and nation for every video. That public info was privatized around the same time that YouTube, Billboard, and Nielson began to treat YouTube views as viewable impressions for monetization and currency purposes.

I was just reading a wonderful quote about W.E.B. DuBois who in 1899 (r1999) “asserted that Black are not a social problem and that their condition and behaviors, are instead symptomatic of a larger system of oppression” (Hunter, Guerrero, and Cohen in Black Sexualities 2010, p. 377). What’s happening with women inside Google is another social problem that has structural explanations in the ways women are discriminated against. Read more…

Gender Inequality at Google

The U.S. Department of Labor (DoL) has made a sweeping statement that it had “found systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce” and DOL Regional Director Janette Wipper said the agency had received “compelling evidence of very significant discrimination against women in the most common positions at Google headquarters.

In a detailed response to the allegation, Google’s VP of people operations, Eileen Naughton said that the claims had been made “without any supporting data or methodology.” She also explained the salary analysis system Google currently employs:

“Each year, we suggest an amount for every employee’s new compensation (consisting of base salary, bonus and equity) based on role, job level, job location as well as current and recent performance ratings…The analysts who calculate the suggested amounts do not have access to employees’ gender data. An employee’s manager has limited discretion to adjust the suggested amount, providing they cite a legitimate adjustment rationale.” The model then measures individual salary calculations against those received by their peers, which is done to eliminate “statistically significant differences between men’s and women’s compensation”. Naughton also said that Google’s methodology is available to other businesses if they want to test their own compensation practices for equal pay.

This has been going on since Sep 2016, after which a case was filed in January, asking for Google’s compensation data. Things came to a head after Google failed to comply with a routine audit.

Introducing #TwerkTech2

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For about two years or more I’ve been toying with teens and technology and the implications and unintended consequences particularly for black girls or under-resourced girls from marginalized communities.  These communities are rarely represented in videos circulating around the web about social media and screen time.

Girls’ online interest-driven activities–those stepping stones to self-actualization and adulthood–are often stigmatized and stereotyped in networked spaces like YouTube or Facebook. It leads marginalized kids to seek out platforms like Snapchat thinking they are protected when their snaps actually were not deleted or disappearing. It also leads many black girls to seek Tumblr because there is not textual engagement with any uploaded content. Other users leave notes rather than comments providing an affirming space to self-present online.

The technology concerns I am interested in are more about humanizing a group of people who are socially alienated by networked publics. Black girls’s online content tends to be disliked in Generation Like more than their non-black and non-female counterparts.

Studying the misogyny and the sexploitation surrounding young girls’ twerking videos on YouTube has helped me think about the breakdown that can result from others’ judgments of their content and how that then affects their ecological fitness. I wrote about this is the chapter “YouTube, Bad Bitches, and a M.I.C.” in the Hip-hop and Obama Reader edited by Travis Gosa and Erik Nielsen:

Most girls, even the “smart” girls, simply do not yet have the biologically developed cognition needed to process and counter this commercial onslaught of distorted teenage relationships: their frontal lobes will not fully develop until after ages 20–23. Nor do most adolescents and teens have ample“fitness” to do so—defined here as an organism’s capacity to transmit, reproduce, and create a surplus of those things material and immaterial, biological, linguistic, and transactional (the exchange of goods, services, and funds) that it needs to thrive in a particular environment. This includes emotional, mental, and conversational fitness in what are political exchanges for sex, love—and, yes, money—in local and global economies.
Many teens (and adults, for that matter) have not learned to resist the socio-biological pull of their libidos and hormones, which are too frequently directed by the flow of corporate-market music with its twisted myths of romantic seduction. (Gaunt 2015, 221)

 

My aim is to empower those black, brown and/or poor girls who are unlikely to learn to code or elect to study a STEM or STEAM in school or college. Their digital media literacy is perhaps even more important this the lesser number who will go into tech careers. They will be moms, sisters, caretakers, community leaders, health advocates, fitness seekers, and they need to learn how powerful the mobile apps they already have can be in empowering just about any aspect of their adulthood and ambition in their personal, professional,  and physical wellness.


[Ecological fitness is] defined here as an organism’s [or a girl’s] capacity to transmit, reproduce, and create a surplus of those things material and immaterial, biological, linguistic, and transactional (the exchange of goods, services, and funds) that it needs to thrive in a particular environment.


So I came up with an idea from studying thousands of twerking videos featuring tween and teen black girls’ bedroom culture. My mission is to get black, brown and poor girls who use YouTube and other SNSs in musical interactions that often involve their body or dance to extend their online interest-driven activities into tech applications and mobility, too. Thus, the idea of #TwerkTech2.

Join me this weekend at the Rutgers Digital Blackness conference on April 23 at 3:30pm as I present my latest ideas and thoughts about a project I dreamed of almost 4 years ago. Then I called it “Cookies in the Hood”. The reference here is about computer cookies and adulthood (as well as neighborhood, childhood, labiahood or sexuality and intimacy training, and more).

Fitness takes time and planning; seduction is easy and quick. Fitness takes healthy eating, movement, and education; seduction is cheap and fast. Seduction requires nothing of you to participate. In fact, it trades on a naïve notion that your future is far away and that what happens now will not matter later. Why can’t girls as content
creators shift that seduction? It seems so accessible with YouTube—why isn’t it happening? (Gaunt 2015, 221).

Cookies are small files stored on a user’s computer. “They are designed to hold a modest amount of data specific to a particular client and website, and can be accessed either by the web server or the client computer.” What if we took this same concept and restored it to thinking about sovereignty of mind and body as well as the autonomy or learning to DIWO (do it with others) without threats or obligations to others? That’s another way of saying autonomy = wealth. A wealth of skills, capital, and human and non-human resources that all you to “do as you see fit.”

So, that’s what I am up to these days. That’s what I’m going to present about at the Rutgerts University DIgital Blackness Conference this weekend.

Here’s a couple of videos — one for parents and teachers and one for kids and teens — from a great organization Common Sense Media. There mission is to “improves the lives of kids and families by providing independent reviews, age ratings, & other information about all types of media.”  These videos give us insights into the need for new digital media literacies and conversations about the unintended consequences so girls can grow up online free from harm AND free to express themselves and explore technical ways to twerk their user-generated content on any platform.

 

 

Bibliography:

Gaunt, Kyra D.YouTube, Bad Bitches, and an M.I.C. (Mom-in-Chief) ): On the Digital Seduction of Black Girls in Participatory Hip-Hop Spaces. The Hip Hop & Obama Reader, 2015a, 207-26. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199341801.003.0012.