The tech giant Qualcomm is set to pay $19.5 million to settle claims that the company discriminated against female employees by allegedly denying them equal pay and job opportunities as their male counterparts.
Although the settlement is still subject to court approval, the company agreed to the settlement before the lawsuit was filed in federal court Tuesday.
As part of the settlement, San Diego-based chip maker also has to implement policy changes and programs to better promote female employees working in the field of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, known as STEM, the Associated Press reports.
Despite agreeing to make improvements, Qualcomm said that is has "strong defenses" to the claims. Regardless, the changes could greatly affect the male-dominated industry, the women's lawyers said. The lawsuit affects a class of about 3,300 women in STEM at Qualcomm, according to AP.
As part of the settlement, Qualcomm will retain two independent consultants to make policy recommendations that will ensure an equitable workplace. The company will also appoint an internal compliance officer to oversee the implementation of the agreement's terms, which include investing in leadership development initiatives, educating employees on non-discrimination policies and revamping the company's complaint procedures.
"It is common knowledge that women in STEM and other related fields face persistent discrimination in pay and promotions," said David Sanford, the lead lawyer for the plaintiffs. "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."
At Qualcomm, women hold less than 15% of senior leadership positions. Moreover, managers, who are mostly male, also are in charge of deciding who gets promoted, leading to women being promoted less often than men.
"Qualcomm is committed to treating its employees fairly and equitably. 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 that we share and embrace," Christine Trimble, vice president of public affairs at Qualcomm, told Fortune in a prepared statement. "The settlement is still subject to court approval so we cannot comment further."
Unfortunately, unequal pay and job opportunities for women who work in STEM related fields is only one of the many problems they face. In fact, a previous report showed that 60% of women who responded to a survey—most of whom have at least 10 years of tech experience—said they reported experiencing unwanted sexual advances, all while 39% of respondents said that they did not report the harassment for fear of it hurting their careers.