On Wednesday morning, Bloomberg reported some positive Starbucks news: The corporation had voluntarily disclosed a set of statistics on gender and racial pay equity. The numbers, I was pleasantly surprised to see, show no pay discrepancy between men and women, and also no differences along racial lines (no wonder they voluntarily disclosed them). That’s great, but there is some reason to be skeptical.
As a professional data scientist and an amateur pedant, I’m concerned that the metric Starbucks is using to measure that pay gap, the median, is imperfect for this type of analysis, to the point that it might smooth over real pay equity discrepancies because of the way it is calculated. When Starbucks disclosed its U.K. pay gap (as required by U.K. law), it had to report out both median and mean—