Former Executive Editor of The New York Times Jill Abramson attends the WIRED Business Conference: Think Bigger at the Museum of Jewish Heritage on May 7, 2013 in New York City.
The firing of Jill Abramason and the ensuing discussion of pay discrepancies and institutional sexism at the New York Times has reignited debate about larger issues surrounding women in media.
Abramson had been lauded for her efforts as the first female executive editor of theTimes; her appointment in 2011 was a sign that women had gained a greater role in broader media.
Data compiled by the Pew Research Center indicates otherwise, though. Women's share of the newsroom remains almost unchanged in the past 15 years, as has the percentage of women in supervisor positions, according to the Pew data.
Pay differences, like those that Abramson is believed to have encountered, continue.
On Wednesday, Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. announced to a stunned newsroom that Abramson would be replaced by managing editor Dean Baquet.
A Sulzberger spokesperson said the firing of Abramson was spurred by a desire to change the management of the newsroom. Subsequent reporting by Ken Auletta of The New Yorker pointed to a salary discrepancy as an important element of an already strained relationship between Abramson and Sulzberger and president and CEO Mark Thompson.
As executive editor, Abramson was reportedly paid less than her predecessor Bill Keller. According to Auletta, Abramson's 2011 compensation of $475,000 came in well below Keller's $559,000 in the same role.
She also discovered that as managing editor her salary of $398,000 was less than a male coworker in a similar position, and that the man who took over her job as Washington bureau chief made far more than she did.
Sulzberger denied the pay gap in a memo to Times staffers. Auletta said that Timesspokesperson Elieen Muprhy "conceded" that Abramson's recent hiring of a lawyer had been among the reasons for the dismissal. Murphy denied that notion or that she ever said as such to Auletta. The Times is seeking a correction.
The accusation of pay discrepancy echoes the larger issue of a compensation gap between men and women in the media. An Indiana University survey from 2012, referenced by Pew, showed that the median income for female newspaper employees was about $5,000 less than that of their male counterparts.
Wow, if Jill Abramson was fired over asking for equal pay, what hope does that give the rest of us? http://t.co/4jcoWag7xA— The Opinioness (@OpinionessWorld) May 14, 2014
This problem is not unique to the media world. In April, Democrats in Congress attempted to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill that advocates claimed would help alleviate pay differences. Senate Republicans blocked the bill.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid referenced Abramson on the Senate floor on Thursday, citing the reported pay discrepancy as an example of why legislation is needed to address the issue.
"Look what happened, it appears, in the New York Times," Reid said. "It's now in the press that because [Abramson] complained she was doing the same work as men in two different jobs and made a lot less money than they did. That's why we need this legislation."
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