Recent informal internal employee survey indicates Apple’s goals for pay equity may not be on target

Earlier this month, a report revealed that some higher-ups at Apple have been putting in a concerted effort to shut down internal, informal employee surveys that are being distributed throughout the company. In that report, the focal point was a survey that was being distributed trying to shed more details on the salaries of those working for Apple. Some employees believe there is pay inequality within the company, despite Apple’s claims to the contrary.

Unfortunately for Apple, the early results of one of those surveys seems to indicate that there is indeed a noteworthy pay discrepancy between male and female workers. As noted by The Verge today, it appears that, based on early analysis, that there is a six percent pay difference between these two demographics at the company. The results were shared by developer Cher Scarlett, who was initially highlighted in that report from earlier this month about the informal surveys being circulated and shut down.

In the past, Apple has that it has tried to end pay inequalities within the company. It has gone as far as to say that employees “earn the same when engaging in similar work with comparable experience and performance,” with no bearing on any other identifiers like age or sex or race. The pay gap in San Francisco, California, according to the original report, hovers around 5%, so Apple appears to be that threshold. But that’s not a great threshold to be at, generally speaking, especially not based on Apple’s own internal metrics.

However, there is a caveat. Apple confirmed in 2020 that it has around 147,000 employees — and only a fraction of that actually participated in the informal survey. Specifically, the employees remained anonymous and had to opt-in to the survey. And only 2,000 employees did so. The survey is not scientific by any means, but, as long as the respondents were truthful, it does appear to show at least a slice of what’s going on within Apple. And the results are making many people understandably frustrated.

Back in 2016, Apple released new diversity data for the company, and, at the time, said that all employees based in the United States earn the same amount of money for equal work. At the time, Apple said it had ended its pay equity problem, but it appears that may not be the case anymore.

The report says that Scarlett, along with members of the data analysis organization working to look through the data, will present their findings to Apple at a meeting sometime next week.

It isn’t just pay inequity, either. Scarlett said on Twitter that, “These charts suggest that white men have much more opportunities to advance within the company, and are more likely to be working in technical roles than less represented demographics.” The data also appears to show that there are “far fewer women, non-binary, and non-white people in senior positions at the company,” and that includes within technical roles, too. The alarming element to that is that these are some of the most highest-paid positions within Apple.

For her part, Scarlett says these results aren’t conclusive, and should not be taken as such. The informal surveys are simply meant to help address any potential issues and/or concerns within the company, and get some insight to how things are actually functioning within the company. The reason for that search? Scarlett says the employees don’t receive any on behalf of Apple itself, so these informal surveys are meant to address that. Scarlett says an investigation on Apple’s part is what they are actually looking for, with transparent results they can all see:

What we actually want is for Apple to do a third-party investigation into salary data, or an audit that we have insight into.

From the original report:

The Verge was granted access to the survey data, which offers evidence of a salary gap among the respondents. We analyzed the survey data by isolating the approximately 1,400 technical roles, then grouping them by job level, gender, and race. We then found the median salaries for the job level as a whole, as well as the race and gender breakdowns within that job level. We went with the median value to smooth out any skewing that could come from outliers (which can easily crop up in user-provided data). The approach did not take into account things like college degrees or years of experience. We chose not to look at the non-technical respondents, as there were only around 520.

Among the survey respondents in the data given to The Verge, the median pay for men in mid-level technical roles was 6.25 percent higher than the median pay of women, while the median pay for white employees in mid-level technical roles was 5.06 percent higher than that of non-white employees. This sample was 944 white men out of 1,408 total respondents.

The median number of stock grants (restricted stock units) for non-white workers in entry-level and mid-level technical roles was roughly 11 percent lower than the median number of RSUs for white workers among survey respondents.

Interestingly, the report from The Verge notes that when it comes to higher levels of engineering organization within the company shows a 1.2 percent pay increase for female respondents — a higher uptick for male counterparts. Which is an actual reversal of the data points for other employee respondents. However, Scarlett remains skeptical about these results, saying that the male engineers in these higher-paid categories are far more hesitant to respond due to the fact they are some of the highest paid employees within the company, just under the company’s leadership:

Men in those high roles are less likely to respond to the survey because they’re the highest paid in the company, outside of leadership.

Speaking about Apple’s response to these types of informal surveys, especially when it comes to pay equity, an anonymous source at Apple said this:

One Apple employee who spoke to The Verge said an Apple director discouraged employees from taking the survey during an all-hands meeting last week. ‘A lot of us had the same thought that what he was saying was not great, it felt antiquated,’ the source said.

Transparency isn’t something Apple is known for, unless it has to based on local regulations or similar efforts from outside sources. The more vocal employee base at Apple is a change from how things used to be, and it appears that upper management/leadership is still having trouble coming to terms with the fact that many employees within the company want that transparency. Whether or not that actually happens at Apple remains to be seen.