Women in tech no doubt have hurdles to bringing class-action lawsuits, including the requisite preponderance of statistical evidence and the prevalence of confidentiality clauses and arbitration agreements, which are, in effect, designed to pre-empt class actions. But this challenge doesn’t mean the suits cannot be brought, or won. This is a route that the women of Silicon Valley should consider, especially if regulation is not an immediate and viable solution.
Hundreds of female former employees of the Signet Jewelers conglomerate, for example, recently alleged in a class action that the company’s chief executive and other leaders presided over a corporate culture that promoted unbridled sexual harassment and pay and promotion discrimination. The case, which is strikingly similar to the “Boom Boom Room” case, is still being adjudicated. Last month, Signet’s chief executive stepped down.
It’s not just the female plaintiffs who would win if they were to be victorious in court. The economic benefits could be remarkable. Advancing women’s equality, which includes minimizing the gender gap in labor force participation, holds the potential to add $12 trillion to global G.D.P. by 2025.
The male-dominated leadership of Silicon Valley has proved unwilling or unable to solve systemic gender inequality, and the leaked Google memo should serve as an alert about how deeply and passionately anti-equality attitudes are held. It’s time women in tech consider taking advantage of the law to disrupt the industry once and for all.