Gender pay and the media industry

There was a huge furore over the BBC’s 9% gender pay gap, mainly because it got caught up in the whole equal pay issue. In the last few days a few more media companies have published their data. ITN has revealed a 19.6% gap and a 77.2% gap in bonuses. The Guardian has an 11.3% gap. The main reason given is the lack of woman in senior roles or, in the case of bonuses, in senior roles that attract bonuses. Trinity Mirror earlier published its figures. Overall it has a 15% pay gap, but on its main tabloids – the Mirror and Sunday People – it has a 20.7% gap.  It will be interesting to see what the other big media companies’ figures are, but the 9% figure is now not looking so bad.

So why are the women not in senior positions in the media? Is it that they are all having babies and don’t want to work the associated long hours because they are still, in most cases, the primary carer? Surely that cannot explain the whole picture.

I’ve worked in several media companies. I left one when I had my first baby because the shifts were long, though only four days a week, and I needed full-time work as I was the main earner.  I took a full-time job a little closer to home which offered homeworking for one day a week. My bottom line was I wanted to see my daughter before she went to bed, at least for 15 minutes.

The second company I left was not to do with the hours worked, although there was an issue over homeworking. It was, however, an issue that could easily have been solved. It was the way the issue was handled and what it revealed about the company culture, particularly when it came to women, that was what made me leave. There is little point working in an organisation which is hostile, where you feel like you are going into battle every day without ever knowing where the next attack is coming from. It grinds you down. It certainly doesn’t motivate you to “succeed”. That is how it felt. If it happened again I’d run a mile. At the time I tried to stand my ground, but that just made things worse – and only for me.

The top jobs are often associated with a kind of obsessive way of working. I remember one of my managers asking in an editorial meeting if I had heard an interview with the then Health Secretary which aired at around 4am. He was well known for emailing from his holidays if there was a comma out of place. Does it have to be that way, though? Surely this masochistic approach to work puts off many journalists, whether they are male or female? It has certainly been associated with high levels of alcoholism in the profession.

Does it have to be that way just because it has been that way up to now? Are we not capable of rethinking it, kissing goodbye to the old heroic editor model of the past and embracing a more collaborative approach or are there still too many vested interests, too much romanticism, attached to the old ideas?

*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of Workingmums.co.uk.





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