Much has been written this week about the disparaging reports of ousted former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson's compensation package sidled up against her male counterparts. All rumors aside, Media critic Ken Auletta reported Abramson's starting salary in 2011 to be $475,000, compared to former New York Times executive editor Bill Keller's salary that same year, at $559,000. According to Auletta, Abramson's salary was raised to $503,000, and -- only after she protested -- was raised again to $525,000. If Auletta is to be believed, it's a paycheck I can only dream of, but it still was not on par.
I'm a feminist and without question, the gender wage gap -- or chasm, in some instances -- is a painful reality to all working woman in America. Without the need for supporting anecdotal research, it goes without saying that wide salary discrepancies amongst a diverse pool of colleagues -- female and male -- can potentially be crippling to individual performance, team collaboration, and the overall social and economic health of an organization.
Having worked in the news business for a sizable length of my career, particularly irksome is the laissez faire handling of Abramson's firing. In particular, how publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. handled it. I have no personal beef against Mr. Sulzberger at all having only met him once briefly on a receiving line, while I worked at Newsday many years ago, and attended an event at The Met which the Times was co-hosting with Newsday. I truly felt I had met royalty, of the New York kind. Although many circumstantial reasons have come to light on the firing, the most tangible evidence seems to point to equal pay; something Mr. Sulzberger will have to further address not only to his employees but to his investors and shareholders as well.
I've never been fired from any job I've held, yet, I have been laid off and handed a very gracious and generous severance package along the way. And asked to sign on the dotted line of confidentiality. It happens to EVERYONE in the course of one's career. It's hard to turn down such a short-term windfall and not to think about any long term implications. The only thing on my mind, at that time, was my ability to pay off credit cards, put down a few extra mortgage payments and have some money left over for some bucket-list traveling to far away destinations I had been yearning to explore.
That said, I often wonder had I been a heterosexual man with family, would my career path and corporate destination be any different? And is there in fact, a rainbow ceiling that subtly -- or overtly, behind closed doors -- exists in the boardrooms and C suites within the fabric of corporate America today?
There is, in face, consistent proof of a Pink Pay Gap. A recent research report, ironically published in The New York Times, in March 2013, from the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress states that 'gay and bisexual men earn less than their heterosexual counterparts, when controlling for education, industry, race and work experience."
Nothing surprising, statistically speaking, and I often commiserate with my close female friends, many of whom fret about their own pitfalls along the rungs of the ubiquitous corporate ladder climb. And I'm left to ponder if it's my big gay voice, or the way I dress, or the way I flail my hands during presentations that might put others off or deterred my ability to fit into the traditional executive mode. I call it personal passion, dedication, determination and commitment; others, higher ranking, may think differently.
Although most of us are employed at will and there can be a fine line between sticking up for oneself and insubordination, it is doubtful that the public will ever know the true cause of Jill Abramson's termination. However, a legacy was made. Kudos to Ms. Abramson for a storied career, thus far, and for her ability to break through many barriers particularly in an old world environment of print media. Something, I for one, have never been able to do. She is a role model; brave and courageous. And she is to be respected for speaking up and out -- not only for herself, but for thousands upon thousands of others whose voice may never by heard.
Pete Dorogoff is a marketing consulting and filmmaker living in New York City. He recently produced the short film Taking It for Granted, about the differing sides to gay marriage, family, child rearing and relationships.