Fair pay and fair play

Fair PayToday is fair pay day. Here’s my part:

I got into the journalism racket back in 1975, when the newbies were relegated to the manual typewriters and when it was considered too demeaning for a male reporter to be assigned to the “Womens” section of the newspaper.

Although I’d completed one meager semester of journalism in college, my gender was enough to qualify me to fill in for the Womens Editor at the Vineland Times Journal. I learned on the job how to describe the design, fabric and lace on the wedding dresses of the prominent daughters in town. I selected recipes, and crossed my fingers that the kind people in the back shop would save me from my non-existent headline and layout skills.

I couldn’t change it, but I never forgot.

When the women’s editor returned from leave, the paper assigned me to fill in for one of the two staff photographers who was out for surgery for a month. My qualifications? I owned my own Cannon FTB and a lens or two, and I could develop film and make black and white prints (thank you Dad!).

I was pretty proud to be in the elite crew until I walked into the darkroom and saw the pinup calenders with half nekkid women on every vertical surface of the room. No, I was told, I could not take them down during my month in that job. That just wouldn’t be respectful of the men photographers, now would it?

I couldn’t change it, but I never forgot.

Fast forward about ten years to the Dallas Times Herald newsroom, where my editor, Ernie Makovy,  was giving me my annual review. Makovy was a friend and teacher every day, so there wasn’t much for him to add. He told me to stop splitting infinitives, and said I wasn’t doing bad otherwise.

Well, OK, I’d been on a team of reporters who were named finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in Public Service Journalism, so I guess I wasn’t screwing up too bad.

Makovy reached in his pocket and pulled out a little folded piece of paper. He opened it, looked down at the scribbled number on it and said, “You’re getting a raise to $35,000 a year.”

Holy cow! That was more than $5,000 a year more than I was making at the time. But it wasn’t for prize-winning journalism.

“That’s to bring you to parity with the guys,” Ernie said, still looking down at the paper. Seems there had been a class action lawsuit, and the paper had either lost or settled, I still don’t know.

I couldn’t change it, but I never forgot.

Fast forward to 2004, when I was hired to be Content Director of MySanAntonio.com. I looked at the roster of people working for me. I looked at their qualifications. Their experience. Their gender. And their pay.

The gender gap glared up at me from the page.

I hadn’t forgotten. And finally, I could change it.

So I did.


8 thoughts on “Fair pay and fair play

  1. Charlotte-Anne — what a great story! (Especially the ending). I found that my MBA students couldn’t/wouldn’t even believe some of the stories I could tell about sexism and harrassment in my 7 yrs. in a Fortune 100 “best places for women” company. And that was in 1983-90! Keep changing things!

  2. CharlotteAnne,
    Thanks to you and many like you, we women journalists don,t experience near the pay parity that used to exist. I work especially hard with my women interns to make sure they get great experience and pay. Guess what? I graduated to weddings from obits and called “seed” pearls “sud” pearls because the handwritten descriptions made it look that way. Lesson learned: Never mess with a bride’s dress. My hat is off to you!

    • Donna,
      You are a true sister! Perhaps we should get special “seed” pearl necklaces and wear them with pride!

  3. Pingback: Megan Hueter

  4. Thanks for posting this Charlotte Anne. I too have run up against the gender pay gap big time as an employee in the media business. It was a significant factor in my decision to go independent in 1998 — and I’ve been independent ever since. I set my own rates, and that’s that.

    – Amy Gahran

  5. Great story!

    My publisher at a small Maryland daily newspaper hired women reporters exclusively in the early 1980s. This was because women didn’t demand raises, I later learned from a departing colleague.

    I was hired at $175/week in 1981 and three years later was making $195/week (a little more than $10,000/year). I thought this was a normal pay progression. I envied first-year teachers who made $14,000/year.

    That motivated me to learn how to ask for raises.

  6. Pingback: It’s my birthday, I’ll count if I want to « Charlotte-Anne Lucas

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