Cryptocurrency Start-Up Underpaid Women and Black Employees, Data Shows

The fast-growing cryptocurrency start-up Coinbase has been rattled in current months by tensions between executives and staff who mentioned they have been being handled unfairly due to their race or gender.

While administration on the firm has argued that the complaints have been restricted to a handful of staff, Coinbase’s personal compensation information means that inequitable remedy of ladies and Black staff went far past just a few disgruntled staff.

The information, lately obtained by The New York Times, indicated that ladies at Coinbase have been paid a mean of $13,000, or eight p.c, lower than males at comparable jobs and ranks throughout the firm, in line with an evaluation of the figures, which included pay particulars for many of Coinbase’s roughly 830 staff on the finish of 2018.

The image was additionally unequal for the 16 salaried Black staff within the information. They have been paid $11,500, or 7 p.c, lower than all different staff in related jobs.

The pay disparities at Coinbase seem like a lot bigger than these within the tech business as an entire, and on the few different tech firms which have needed to launch information.

The Coinbase evaluation was performed for The Times by Alexandra Marr, an economist who has offered statistical evaluation for courtroom circumstances involving pay bias. When she factored in inventory choices for Coinbase’s staff — usually an necessary a part of pay at start-ups — the compensation for ladies and males was roughly the identical whereas the hole between white and Black staff grew to 11 p.c.

Nine staff included within the information confirmed the accuracy of the figures about themselves and colleagues they knew.

The pay disparities are probably so as to add to tensions on the San Francisco firm, which is using a boom in the value of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. It recently told regulators it intended to file for an initial public offering.

Numerous Black employees at Coinbase recently publicly complained about the discrimination they faced at the company. Several women who work at Coinbase have also complained internally about how they were hired, paid and promoted, according to company documents and five employees with knowledge of the complaints. The people would speak only on the condition they not be named because they had signed nondisclosure agreements.

The compensation analysis paints a new and detailed picture of the challenges that women and Black employees have faced at Coinbase, a start-up that has taken center stage in a broader debate in Silicon Valley about how underrepresented employees are treated.

“This certainly looks like a company with a problem,” said James Finberg, the lawyer who is leading the two biggest cases on pay bias in Silicon Valley, against Oracle and Google, after reviewing the Coinbase data.

In a statement, L.J. Brock, Coinbase’s chief people officer, said the company started to conduct a comprehensive review of compensation across the company in late 2018.

“As a result of this process, we implemented a new compensation program that brought Coinbase in line with some of the world’s most respected technology companies. This program included: implementing a robust, industry standard leveling system; implementing nonnegotiable, single pay targets for base salary; and awarding equity to all roles and levels,” Mr. Brock said.

Brian Armstrong, Coinbase’s chief executive, has prided himself on his management strategy and acumen, writing numerous memos on his efforts to create a “consistent culture” dedicated to growth. But his strategy has left many workers feeling shortchanged or alienated, according to current and former employees, surveys and internal documents.

“If I was running a company and I knew that my numbers looked worse than people being sued, that would worry me,” said Janice Madden, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who did the analysis in the Oracle case.

The numbers in the Google and Oracle cases controlled for factors, such as experience and education, that were not possible in the Coinbase statistics because of the limits of the data shared with The Times.

The Coinbase figures arrived at by Ms. Marr took account of the job level of all employees, as well as their status as an engineer and manager. It is possible that if the analysis took account of more factors, the pay disparity would shrink.

In the 14 job categories at Coinbase with at least three women, the average woman earned less than the average man in all but two job categories.

Black employees earned less, on average, than white employees in all but one of the eight job categories that had any Black staff members, the analysis by Ms. Marr shows.

The wage disparities are compounded by the fact that women and Black employees were concentrated in the lower-paying jobs at the company.

At Coinbase, the engineering staff was only 13 percent female, according to the company’s own analysis from 2018, which was obtained by The Times. This was half the industry average and lower than the number at all of the 11 companies that Coinbase considered competitors, according to the company’s internal analysis, which was shared with The Times.

Employee unhappiness over pay and culture led to several negative reviews on the career site Glassdoor that cite problems with pay and representation for women and Black employees, culminating in an overall rating of 1.1 out of 5 on diversity and inclusion.

The bad reviews led to conversations among executives, some who pushed for changes to the company’s culture, according to four former employees briefed on the conversations, who would speak only on the condition of anonymity because of nondisclosure agreements they signed.

One of the reviews that was often discussed inside the company said the “unconscious pro-male bias is out of control” and warned women that “you’ll get paid less than your male colleagues, passed over for promotions.”

Mr. Armstrong generally ignored the recommendations of employees who spoke with him about their concerns about diversity, The Times previously reported.

Internal figures given to The Times indicate that the company’s diversity has not changed much since 2018. When the company last did an internal diversity report, in late 2019, the percentage of female and Black employees — 33 percent and 3 percent — at Coinbase was roughly the same as in 2018.

An internal document about the company’s struggles to improve diversity, from around the same time as the data, said that employees had noticed the “lack of engagement” on diversity from executives, leading to “confusion” about whether the company cared about improving the environment for minorities.

“Without senior executive engagement, diversity is considered a secondary, ‘nice to have’ rather than a priority for the organization,” the document said.

Or, as one otherwise positive review on Glassdoor put it, at around the same time: “Don’t repeat the same mistakes of the past, where women and minorities are left behind.”

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