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2020
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7

The year of radical salary transparency

“Rare is the journalist who will cite money among the reasons for choosing our profession. But we also need to eat. And pay the rent. And have a life outside the job. “

We’re on the precipice of the Year of Radical Transparency in Pay. And that’ll be followed (likely very slowly) by the Age of Financial Reckoning. Journalists are finally realizing that the veil of secrecy around our incomes is part of what has led to our current state of unfair compensation.

Data shows that women continue to earn a fraction of the money that their male counterparts take home in the United States. Since 1979, when earnings comparisons started being tracked, women have been slow to rise in parity. Over the next four decades, women’s earnings went from 62 cents on the dollar to 81. The earning power of blacks and Hispanics continues to lag even further.

I want my 19 cents on the dollar. Actually, I want much more than that to make up for years of systemic pay inequity. Rare is the journalist who will cite money among the reasons for choosing our profession. But we also need to eat. And pay the rent. And have a life outside the job.

Grassroots efforts have attempted to shed light on salaries, including an anonymous spreadsheet made public this fall. Journalists are rising up to form unions from Los Angeles to Phoenix to D.C.

And the lawsuits are mounting. Vice Media agreed to a nearly $2 million settlement earlier this year as hundreds of women claimed that the company’s use of pay history perpetuated a gender gap even they rose in the organization. And the BBC is battling with presenter Samira Ahmed, who has already won other cases in which she cited unequal pay for women.

We’re also seeing more women in leadership roles where they can make an immediate difference by adjusting the salaries of historically underpaid groups. Kristie Gonzales, president and general manager of KVUE in Austin, is one boss who is level setting: During the 2018 ONA conference, she noted that every department she has ever inherited required her oversight to lift women’s salaries. (And, yes, journalism needs to keep working on the gender imbalance of newsroom leadership.)

The Age of Financial Reckoning — the time when equal work earns equal pay, regardless of gender or race — is coming. But that’s going to require news outlets (and our audiences) investing even more in quality journalism.

Doris Truong is the director of training and diversity at the Poynter Institute.

We’re on the precipice of the Year of Radical Transparency in Pay. And that’ll be followed (likely very slowly) by the Age of Financial Reckoning. Journalists are finally realizing that the veil of secrecy around our incomes is part of what has led to our current state of unfair compensation.

Data shows that women continue to earn a fraction of the money that their male counterparts take home in the United States. Since 1979, when earnings comparisons started being tracked, women have been slow to rise in parity. Over the next four decades, women’s earnings went from 62 cents on the dollar to 81. The earning power of blacks and Hispanics continues to lag even further.

I want my 19 cents on the dollar. Actually, I want much more than that to make up for years of systemic pay inequity. Rare is the journalist who will cite money among the reasons for choosing our profession. But we also need to eat. And pay the rent. And have a life outside the job.

Grassroots efforts have attempted to shed light on salaries, including an anonymous spreadsheet made public this fall. Journalists are rising up to form unions from Los Angeles to Phoenix to D.C.

And the lawsuits are mounting. Vice Media agreed to a nearly $2 million settlement earlier this year as hundreds of women claimed that the company’s use of pay history perpetuated a gender gap even they rose in the organization. And the BBC is battling with presenter Samira Ahmed, who has already won other cases in which she cited unequal pay for women.

We’re also seeing more women in leadership roles where they can make an immediate difference by adjusting the salaries of historically underpaid groups. Kristie Gonzales, president and general manager of KVUE in Austin, is one boss who is level setting: During the 2018 ONA conference, she noted that every department she has ever inherited required her oversight to lift women’s salaries. (And, yes, journalism needs to keep working on the gender imbalance of newsroom leadership.)

The Age of Financial Reckoning — the time when equal work earns equal pay, regardless of gender or race — is coming. But that’s going to require news outlets (and our audiences) investing even more in quality journalism.

Doris Truong is the director of training and diversity at the Poynter Institute.

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