Two years after suing Twitter for gender discrimination, engineer Tina Huang is looking to renew her fight against the tech giant, this time coming at them with data regarding pay from her peers still working there. Bloomberg reports that Huang's been gathering data since her 2015 lawsuit, and now, she's hoping to use all of that to represent the reported 133 female engineers working at the company "in what would be the first group case of its kind in the Bay Area if certified."
It seems like much of her case centers on gender and pay equity, which has been a longstanding battle within the tech industry itself (not to mention within nearly all other industries as well). Google is dealing with a similar complaint still being investigated by the U.S. Department of Labor, which accused the search engine giant of "extreme systemic disparity in pay based on gender." Huang's case cites this case as an example, and her lawyer, Jason Lohr, said, "By using statistical samples to show how it takes women longer to be promoted or that there are fewer women being promoted, the lawsuit will focus on company policies that produce that outcome."
Huang first took on Twitter when she sued them in March 2015, alleging that she was passed over for a promotion because of her gender. She accused the company of favoring men over women in such promotions, as they use a "black box" (i.e., mysterious, inscrutable) promotion process, which makes understanding the whys and wherefores of promotions all but impossible. Huang wanted to know exactly why she was passed over, and informed the CEO about her concerns regarding the process' lack of transparency. Later, she was allegedly told by a colleague that her coding skills that were to blame, which she did not agree with. The HR department then allegedly told her to take some time off while they figured things out, but then she was placed on indefinite leave while her case was left "in limbo." When she returned to work at the request of HR, she was allegedly berated for taking leave, and she says she was ultimately let go for that. In court, Twitter said they never recommended she take time off in the first place. Huang told Bloomberg, "There was no intention of rectifying the situation. They didn’t really want me back in the office." It's unclear whether Twitter still uses that "black box" promotion process, but what is clear is that Huang still believes the company is guilty of "stacking the deck" against women.
Huang said her renewed interest in taking up the battle against Twitter stems from another high-profile case of gender discrimination and harassment: that of Susan Fowler, whose blog post detailing her experiences at Uber brought on a fresh volley of accusations from many other women working in the tech industry. Huang told Bloomberg, "You not only saw real action happen at Uber but you also saw the amount of the conversation. Women were emboldened by it." She's not wrong, either; Fowler's blog post brought on a veritable sea change, at least in the public eye, with Uber moving to course-correct its by-then reportedly "fratty" culture, ultimately resulting in the ousting of Travis Kalanick, former CEO and founder. Twitter has its own reputation for being a bit "fratty," as back in 2015, they threw a fraternity/Greek-themed party merely a few months after Huang launched her initial discrimination lawsuit. They acknowledged that it was in poor taste, but, as with many of Twitter's thus-far empty apologies, the damage had already been done.
Bloomberg says that Twitter has responded to Huang's previous accusations, saying that, "Twitter is deeply committed to a diverse and supportive workplace, and we believe the facts will show Ms. Huang was treated fairly."