Tech companies woo female computer science majors at an awkward time

 As female computer science students weigh their career options, their decisions may rest on more than just job title and salary — they’re looking at how companies handle gender issues.

Devshi Mehrotra couldn’t speak highly enough of her three-month internship with Google’s artificial intelligence project, Google Brain, this summer.

“Oh, it was so great,” says Mehrotra, a 19-year-old computer-science major at the University of Chicago. “It was this program tailored to people with my background — women, people of color— and it was an environment that really pushed me to work as hard as I possibly could.”

But as career-affirming as her internship was, Mehrotra’s time at Google coincided with several public revelations about the way women are treated at the company. According to an internal spreadsheet of base salaries at Google, The New York Times reported, women are paid 4  to 6 percent less than men at nearly every job level. The company is also under investigation by the U.S. Labor Department, which alleges widespread gender-based discrepancies in pay. (Google, which declined to comment for this article, has denied these accusations.)

Mehrotra was also at Google in August when a 10-page, 3,300 word manifesto written by one of the company’s software engineers went public. The memo’s main conclusion was that women are underrepresented in tech because their biological differences from men tend to make them less suitable for the job.

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“I’ve really struggled with what to make of that,” Mehortra says. She says she felt nothing but encouragement and support at Google, and yet, here was definitive proof that at least some employees believed her gender might play a role in her ability to do the job well. “I read the memo. I saw how the other women at the company were so upset. I overheard their conversations.”

It’s been a particularly restive moment for women in technology. In addition to the Google memo, there’s also been the unending debacle at Uber Technologies and another brewing at Social Finance, along with sexual-harassment allegations at venture-capital firms including Greylock, Ignition Partners and Binary Capital. In July, 500 Startups’ founder resigned and apologized for “being a creep.”

This adds up to more than a social or legal concern for tech companies. This fall, many will offer jobs to…

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