The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Pay doesn’t look the same for men and women at top newspapers

<a href="">Photo by Flickr user Roger H. Goun</a>

The union that represents journalists at The Wall Street Journal, MarketWatch and Barron’s announced this week that Dow Jones, which owns the publications, pay men more than women in jobs of similar tenure.

Male staffers with up to five years of experience, for example, earn an average of 13.5 percent more than female staffers at the same level — and even slightly more than the category of women who've been on the job for twice as long.

The Independent Association of Publishers' Employees 1096’s analysis found that, on average, full-time women at Dow Jones properties make about 87 cents for every dollar paid to full-time men. This includes everyone employed by Dow Jones who's represented by the union — a group of about 1,400 across North America, including writers, copy editors and customer service representatives. (The union does not represent workers in supervisory roles.)

For comparison, women who work full time in the United States take home 79 cents for every dollar a man earns.

The Dow Jones gap, like the national gap, widens by race: Weekly pay for white women is 24 percent higher than for black women, while weekly pay for white men is 36 percent higher than for black women.

Tim Martell, IAPE 1096’s executive director, said the union reexamined its salary data after some members expressed suspicion about unfair compensation. They collected the personnel records in a week, he said, and compared the results with a similar study from 1991, which showed female workers at the time had 76 percent of their male colleagues' earnings.

“It’s startling to see how little things have changed,” Martell said. “Only seven of the top 30 salaries in the newsrooms belong to women – that doesn’t look very good.”

The behind-the-scenes look at Dow Jones reflects a broader pay gap in America’s newsrooms. As one Wall Street Journal reporter noted, the watchdogs who cover the nation's pay disparities are grappling with a wage gap of their own.

A recent Indiana University survey of 1,080 American journalists found that the median income for female journalists employed at newspapers in 2012 was about $5,000 less than for men. The median income for women across all journalism jobs was $44,342  — 83 percent of a man’s earnings, the research shows.

The gap hasn’t changed much over the past two decades. The last significant shift occurred just after the 1970s, when a newswoman took home 64 percent of her male colleague’s salary, the Pew Research Center noted:

Like in many unionized newsrooms, Dow Jones employers are required to pay salary minimums. Managers, though, may boost pay at their discretion.

The Dow Jones data breaks down salary data by gender, race and experience for all company employees.

The salary gap appears to start early at the companies and grow over time: Male new hires make 11.5 percent more than female new hires. Men with more than 20 years of experience make 13.8 percent more than women at the same level. (See the rest of the union’s breakdown here.)

The numbers also look specifically at the newsroom, where they spell out what reporters and writers earn at various stages of their careers. They don't include editors, photographers and designers.

"Male reporters" at the company typically make 11 percent more than female reporters, the figures show. Male "senior special writers," a high-level distinction, also outearn their female counterparts by 11 percent.

Dow Jones, responding to the findings Wednesday, said in a statement, “Building a diverse workforce is critically important to us, and we absolutely remain committed to fostering an inclusive work environment.”

At The Washington Post, similar measures of any pay gap within the newsroom were unavailable. But a recent analysis of all company employees by The Post's union has determined the median annual salary for men is $84,759, compared with $70,000 for women. In other words, Post women typically make 83 cents for every dollar paid to Post men. The numbers suggest that men hold more higher-paying jobs but say nothing about how men and women in similar roles are compensated.

Freddy Kunkle, co-chair of The Washington Post's Guild unit, said the union has hired an analyst to compile data by race, role and experience level. Those numbers were not available, he said.

A representative for The Post declined to comment on the union's findings and said company salary data is confidential. Representatives at the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times also echoed that sentiment, saying the newspapers do not release pay information by gender and race.

Tension over transparency 

Beyond the journalism world, more American companies are collecting data by gender and race, hoping they can better identify important trends within their workforce. But so far, they have rarely released such numbers. In January, President Obama drew ire from the business community for backing an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission proposal that would, as early as next year, require large companies to report what they're paying women and minority workers compared with white men.

Elisa Lees Muñoz, executive director of the International Women's Media Foundation, a Washington-based group that supports women in journalismhas found through her own research that news organizations in the United States are just as unwilling to share their salary data. That makes it tough, she said, to spot problematic pay patterns.

“The more information that is out there about wages, the better it is for all employees,” Muñoz said. “We live in a culture where people don't like to talk about money and how much they make.”

Pay, of course, is complicated. Special skills that a reporter or editor brings to the job — or, say, the marketplace at the time of the hire — affect an employee’s starting salary.

While such individual circumstances may exist, it's unlikely they explain the aggregate effect, Muñoz said. The lower median salary for female journalists, she said, stems partially from the lack of women in top newsroom jobs with the power to make hiring, promotion and assignment decisions.

“It’s really important to take a look structurally at the news business and ask: Why, when you look at the highest levels, are women not there?" she said.

In the United States, men still hold more than three-quarters of top management roles in newsrooms, according to a 2012 study from the International Women’s Media Foundation. They also comprise about two-thirds of the overall management roles.

If journalism trends mirror those in the broader labor force, it's possible more women are skipping or delaying promotions to scale back at work and take off more time to raise children. They may decide against, say, applying for editor positions or overseas assignments. Economists say at least half of the country's gender wage gap can be attributed to career choices.

But at least a third of the disparity remains "unexplained," a January report from researchers at Cornell University concluded. The authors argue the mystery portion is explained by discrimination, conscious or otherwise.

Stereotypes about men and women may creep into the hiring process, said Francine Blau, a Cornell economist who studies wage disparities. Men may be viewed as more dedicated to their jobs, while women shouldering the same workload might come off as more focused on their families.

Previous research from Harvard University showed, for instance, workers of both genders assumed female co-workers who clocked out early were off to pick up kids, while men doing the same looked as though they were leaving to meet clients.