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Qualcomm settles gender discrimination suit for $19.5 million

It will make changes that could "serve as a model" for the tech industry.
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Qualcomm will pay $19.5 million to settle a lawsuit filed by female employees who claim they were paid less and denied promotion opportunities that were given to men. The deal stipulates that the company must implement policies ensuring that women get more promotion opportunities in science and engineering positions. Lawyers for the group told the Associated Press the settlement was a "giant leap forward toward leveling the playing field and can serve as a model of best practices for other technology companies."

According to the lawsuit, women who work in research and engineering at Qualcomm are paid less than men in the same positions. Females also make up just 15 percent of senior leadership, and since managers are mostly male, are promoted less often. The complaint also alleges that workers who stay late are rewarded over those who arrive early and leave at the regular quitting time, making promotions more difficult for working mothers.

This settlement represents a giant leap forward toward leveling the playing field and can serve as a model of best practices for other technology companies.

Qualcomm will hire consultants to set new diversity policies and a compliance officer to ensure they're enforced. "While we have strong defenses to the claims, we elected to focus on continuing to make meaningful enhancements to our internal programs and processes that drive equity and a diverse and inclusive workforce which are values we share and embrace," the company told AP. Qualcomm was a bit late to the game, but now publicly releases its diversity data.

The settlement may make Silicon Valley uncomfortable. While firms like Intel and eBay have set firm goals for gender and ethnic diversity, others like Facebook and Apple have been criticized for doing too little. The Qualcomm deal may embolden female and ethnic employees at other firms to use more drastic measures to be heard.

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