The abrupt firing of New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson sent waves through the media industry this week — particularly when reports surfaced that Abramson was paid less than her male predecessor, along with the suggestion that her request for pay equity may have factored into her termination. (The Times has denied this.)
Abramson's firing inspired dozens of think pieces about the pay and power gap, but few hard numbers. Do female journalists really make less? If so, how much?
To find out, BuzzFeed created a survey, which was emailed to BuzzFeed editorial staffers, as well as to former colleagues and contacts working at the biggest websites, newspapers, magazines, and broadcast networks in the country; they were asked to pass it along. The survey was anonymous and did not record respondents' names, email addresses, or employers.
Between Thursday at 3:30 p.m. and Friday at 8 a.m., nearly 900 people completed the survey. A few salaries exceeded half a million dollars; several hovered around $20,000. We did our best to remove the few responses that seemed to contain typos or obvious trolling.
The goal was to take an honest look at pay discrepancy. The sample wasn't random, and the survey is far from perfect. People who felt less satisfied with their salaries, for example, might have been more likely to complete the survey. But it's a useful step toward knowing how big the gap might be, and at what stage in our careers it widens the most.
At entry level, men and women seem to be paid equally.
Which makes sense, given the lack of room for negotiation. Both men and women working in New York City reported median salaries of $40,000 at the entry level. (Since cost of living varies so widely, we isolated respondents from New York City for this part of the analysis.)
At more senior levels, the pay gap widens.
As men and women advance through their careers, the pay disparity appears to grow. The median pay for senior non-managers was $77,500 for women, but $92,500 for men. These results are generally in line with earlier studies that show the pay gap increasing as careers advance.
The highest-paid men reported higher salaries than the highest-paid women.
This was true even for mid-level professionals. Among this group, men at the 75th percentile made $72,750, while women at the 75th percentile made just $67,000.
The women who responded to the survey were more likely to feel underpaid than men.
Overall, 56% of women in the survey said they felt underpaid, while only 48% of men did.
A few notes on respondents:
• 83% of people who responded to the survey were 30 or younger.
• More women (about 64% of all respondents) participated than men.
• Most people (again, 64%) said they worked online, either for online-only outlets or the websites of print or broadcast outlets. 28% said they worked in print, and 8% in broadcast.
• About half of respondents said they work in New York City. (Washington, D.C., came in distant second, home to 13% of responses.)
• 42% identified as mid-level employees and 35% as senior-level employees; 20% said they were entry-level; 3% said they were top leadership — too small of a sampling to make any meaningful conclusions. We combined this group with senior-level management.