What we talk about when we don't talk about our salaries

Back in November, I shared a piece about the "Real Media Salaries Spreadsheet" that was started by one of my colleagues and publicized the incomes of more than a thousand people working in media.

Now the New York Times has published a great new piece about this movement, on the breakdown of the taboos around pay transparency:

Open discussions of pay lay bare some of the basic contradictions that govern so many workplaces, which claim to embrace their workers like family while insisting, all the while, on professionalism and discretion. They are communities whose members care about one another and yet also know that their respective right to belong is based on their utility, perceived or actual. To ask a co-worker her salary — especially one who has worked at an institution for years — opens up deeper, unsettling questions. How valued are you in this community? Are you more valued than I am, or beyond what I perceive as your worth? Or have you undervalued yourself, been timid, clueless, exploited?

The article does a fair job of approaching the issue from different differences, including the social and professional comfort involved with even trying to change the expectations around salary secrecy, and the actual data that reveals what happens when money matters are aired out in the open:

[U]sing data from a happiness survey that has been conducted in Norway since 1985 … Perez-Truglia found that the newfound accessibility of other people’s pay led to a significant increase in the happiness gap: Higher-income earners were happier than they were before the information was widely available, and lower-income workers were less happy.

Read the rest

Hundreds of journalists are sharing their salary information in a spreadsheet

I'm in a private Slack with some other media/journalist people, and someone brought up the idea of pay transparency. After all: if you don't know what your colleagues are being paid, it's hard to negotiate for a fair rate. We're all conditioned to believe that our financials should be private, but as far as salaries are concerned, that secrecy only ever tends to work in favor of your employer.

So this particular someone made a Google Form and a corresponding spreadsheet where journalists and other media professionals could anonymously add their salary information. And in barely 24 hours, it's spread to CJR and Bloomberg and even inspired Mike Cernovich to go off on some completely unsubstantiated rant to set off his army of loyal trolls because apparently all journalists are scum and also trustfund babies even though there isn't any proof of that (and I can personally assure you that my personal information is on that list and that my public school teacher mom and print salesman dad are not rolling in the dough).

As of this writing, more than 200 people have responded. On one hand, it is admittedly difficult to verify the claims contained within the data. On the other hand, there's still lots of eye-opening information to glean. Unsurprisingly, there are pay disparities across race and gender; but the same thing happens across geographic location, and work experience. Perhaps the most shocking revelation so far is just the absurd range of income of people working in news media. Read the rest

Boston Symphony Orchestra flautist files lawsuit over unequal pay

Boston Symphony Orchestra principal flutist Elizabeth Rowe is suing her employers for $200,000 in damages. The reason: her closest counterpart in the orchestra, a man, is making a shitload more money for doing almost the same damn job as she does. Rowe’s lawsuit was filed one day after the state of Massachusetts brought its equal pay law into effect. Before slamming the Boston Symphony Orchestra with her suit, Rowe attempted, on a number of occasions, to sort the issue of the pay gap out amiably and out of court. Since the Orchestra wouldn’t own up and do the right thing, I suspect they will now be skinned alive under the state’s wicked harsh new pay equality laws.

From NPR:

Rowe was hired for the Boston Symphony's top flutist job in 2004 — a high-profile and extremely competitive position at one of the world's foremost orchestras. According to her suit, she has been profiled as a soloist with the orchestra 27 times in the years since she was hired — more than any other BSO principal musician — and that the orchestra has repeatedly highlighted her in its marketing, publicity and social media materials.

Rowe says that she is currently the top-paid female principal player in the BSO, while the BSO's principal oboist, John Ferrillo, is the symphony's top-paid male principal musician. According to the BSO's 2016 IRS Form 990, Ferrillo was paid $286,621, the largest salary paid to any BSO principal musician. (Violinist Malcolm Lowe — the orchestra's concertmaster, who serves as something of a liaison between the symphony's musicians and its conductor — earned $415,402 in 2016.)

Read the rest

Op-ed recommendation: Why white women must make the equal-pay fight more inclusive

In this new article for New York magazine, activist and writer Brittany Packnett challenges white women to bring more nuance to the fight for equal pay. After all, although the most commonly cited statistic about equal pay is that women make 80 cents for every dollar a man makes, that statistic only applies to white women. Black women make 65 cents while Latina women make just 58 cents. And as Packnett points out, “Asian-American, Pacific Islander, and Native women are often not even considered ‘statistically significant’ enough to be calculated.” Packnett also writes:

Just like the “all lives matter” choir, the “but all women” crowd tends to shout women with marginalized identities along the lines of race, sexuality, class, and physical ability back into silence. They were there in suffrage. They overwhelmed the Women’s March despite the planners’ intentions. They repeatedly ignored our pleas on November 8 that Trump was exponentially more dangerous to the rest of us. They love to tweet me platitudes about color-blindness. They insist this is in the name of unity, but it feels awfully like the spirit of supremacy. We will not end supremacy by perpetuating it. You cannot dismantle oppression while you practice it. When I hear “but all women,” I’m reminded that these women are willing to fight for their dollar but not mine. Ignoring labor cries for a livable $15 an hour reminds women of color — who proportionally out-populate white women in labor fields — that they don’t matter to the cause.

Read the rest