Closing The Gap

New report from members of The Washington Post's union shows women and people of color are paid less

The Washington Post sign is displayed on the newspaper’s building in Washington, Aug. 6, 2013.
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A new comprehensive study released by The Washington Post Newspaper Guild, a union started by company employees in 1934, shows that women and people of color are paid significantly less than their white male counterparts on staff.

The study, which looks at pay disparities in both the newsroom and in the commercial division, says that "women as a group are paid less than men" and that "women of color in the newsroom receive $30,000 [per year] less than white men." All of this information is based on pay data for Guild-covered employees that the union requested in July 2019.

Pulitzer Prize-winning data journalist Steven Rich led efforts on the study, alongside a team of other Post Guild members. He tells CNBC Make It via email that he hopes the data will move the company closer to achieving pay equity.

Office of the Washington Post on May 03, 2012, in Washington, United States. The Washington Post is an American daily newspaper.
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"The Post has been on a hiring spree in recent years, and one thing we've heard from many members of the Guild was that they'd like to better understand pay across the organization," he says. "The Post has never conducted and released to the public a comprehensive pay study, so The Guild felt it was time to do so again since it had been three years since the last such study."

In addition to highlighting a pay gap among women and people of color, the study also found that the pay disparity between men and women is most prevalent in journalists under the age of 40. Based on the data, the median salary for men and women over 40 in the newsroom is $127,765 per year and $126,000 per year, respectively. That's a 1.5% gap. But, when looking at journalists under 40, that gap widens to 14% with men earning $95,890 per year, compared to women earning $84,030 per year.

For young employees of color, the study found that on average they make 7% less than white journalists, with median salaries of $84,780 and $90,780, respectively.

In a series of testimonies given by employees, one 35-year-old award-winning journalist says she started her career as an intern at the company in the mid-2000s. Recently, she says, she found out that all of the men on her team are paid more than she is, despite her having more experience than most of them. One of the men, she says, even makes $30,000 more than she does.

The journalist continues by saying that the only time she received a significant raise at the company was when a competitor presented her with another job offer several years ago. "It's always disgusted me that the only way we can get what we deserve is by getting an offer somewhere else," she says. "How is that a way to show that you value someone?"

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos attends the Amazon Prime Video's Golden Globe Awards After Party in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Jan. 6, 2019.
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In 2013, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos purchased The Washington Post from the Graham family. Though the study points out that pay disparities have "shrunk slightly" since Bezos's takeover, members of the union say that overall employee pay is still not "within a range that the Guild would recognize as the point of parity."

Ahead of the study's publication, members of the union say they shared the results with the company's management team and invited them to respond. But, the company declined to comment.

CNBC Make It also reached out to The Washington Post and received no comment.

Though The Washington Post Newspaper Guild's study may be alarming to some, the issue of pay disparity is one that affects more than just newsroom employees.

Recently, Citigroup Inc. released information from an assessment of its pay data, which shows that female employees earn 29% less than men. The bank also revealed that among its U.S. employees, people of color earn 7% less than their white peers.

"The numbers are difficult," Sara Wechter, Citigroup's global head of human resources tells Bloomberg. "We should obviously be at 100% parity, and that's what we're striving for."

At the Post, union members outlined suggestions for how they think the company can close its existing pay gap. Some of those ways include having a better salary review process, eliminating pay disparities during the hiring process, re-evaluating the two-year intern program where applicants are "slotted into a salary of less than $50,000 for two years," improving efforts to recruit underrepresented talent and having a third-party consultant conduct an annual pay study and share the results with staff.

"I hope that this will spark more conversations around the organization on pay equity and will be the start of a new dialogue with management on how to continue to move closer to pay parity across the organization," adds Rich.

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