Cutting Men’s Pay in the Newsroom to Give More to Women Is a Great Idea

This post is by Angela Washeck, Karen Fratti and Mona Zhang.

paygapWhat should newsroom leaders do if they inherit pay inequalities, but lack the budget to give raises? It’s certainly a difficult newsroom issue, and something that Poynter asked former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson about.

Abramson said:  “You bring the guys down to give a little more to the girls… I did that at The Times. No one’s happy to get a cut, but too bad.”

One of our contributors took issue with this, writing: “Cutting a journalist’s salary purely based on gender doesn’t seem quite fair either.”

While we can see why an underpaid journo may be unhappy with such an arrangement, some of us at 10,000 Words took issue with this view. Sure, cutting a journalist’s salary because he is male “doesn’t seem quite fair,” but getting paid less because of your gender is unfair.

Abramson was faced with the hypothetical situation of walking into a newsroom with “inherited pay inequalities.” Distributing the newsroom’s wealth in the name of equal pay is a good start to abolishing pay inequality across the board.

It just so happens that women still face challenges when it comes to equal pay and equal representation in the media. As The New York Times‘ own Margaret Sullivan wrote: “Among [the nation’s 10 most widely circulated] papers, The Times had the biggest gender gap – with 69 percent of bylines going to men.

While there aren’t very reliable numbers on the gender pay gap at American media outlets, every country studied in this 2012 report had a significant gender pay gap. The report found that “gender equality has not been achieved in journalist occupations;” in the European Union, the difference in pay between male and female journalists are as much as 16 percent.

BuzzFeed did an unscientific survey in the wake of Abramson’s firing, which found that while men and women started out with pretty much equal pay in entry-level positions, as they moved up the ranks, pay gender gap widened.

Additionally, according to a 2013 University of Indiana study, the gender pay gap in journalism may be directly linked to female retention. Women tend to want to leave the profession earlier than men, likely because they don’t see the fruits of their labor, in terms of bylines or compensation, as males do.

When it comes to seasoned journalists with more than 20 years of experience, only 33 percent are women. Never will it be fair for men to be paid more because of unconscious gender bias, in the same way that a female with comparable experience as her male colleague be paid more for her journalism.