I have no idea what caused the firing of Jill Abramson and, unless your name is Arthur Sulzberger, neither do you. So I’m not going to opine on why it happened or what it means. It is, however, worth reviewing the conversation that’s followed her ouster. Here are three things I’ve learned in the last week:
1.) Female journalists get paid less than male journalists. An Indiana University survey — cited in this release from the Pew Research Center — found that women working in news have salaries about 83 percent lower than their male peers. Amanda Bennett, former editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, explains how this can still be true:
I have managed at five organizations over nearly 20 years. At each of them I saw women paid less than men in what I thought were identical positions. Was everyone lying who said they were committed to equal pay? I came to believe not. It was worse than that. It became clear that we saw things differently. I saw two people who, I believed, were doing the same work but being paid unequally. Those above me saw a story and a history, something that they thought caused the man to deserve higher pay: This one had just stepped down from a senior position and taken his higher pay with him. That one had been hired from a higher-paying organization. Yet another had been offered a job with a competitor. How many women in the past decade have been promoted past their peers, only to see in the spreadsheets the sad evidence that their own stories were apparently not as persuasive?
In the days since the Abramson story broke, I’ve heard this sentiment echoed by female journalists in my networks. For many, this feeling of worthlessness caused them to leave leadership jobs they loved or abandon journalism altogether.
2.) There’s something called the “glass cliff“ and it makes life as a female editor really, really hard. Susan Glasser, editor of Politico Magazine, has another name for the dynamic: editing while female.
There are shockingly few women at the top anywhere in America, and it’s a deficit that is especially pronounced in journalism, where women leaders remain outliers, category-defying outliers who almost invariably still face a comeuppance…These women editors have done most of the things the professional women’s empowerment class recommends. But still, they were not really able to succeed. They—and I—remained stuck in a trap not of our own making. It’s called editing while female.
3.) Sexism in journalism extends far beyond the corner office. For some examples, check out this new Tumblr called Journalism While Female. It’s full of accounts from female reporters, editors and producers who have faced sexual harassment, discrimination and other gender-based problems on the job.
But, as the always amazing Robert Hernandez reminds us, the answer isn’t to give up. Instead, do the opposite. Entrench. Push back. Make them change: