Sincerely, Leaders of Color: Everyone can help close the wage gap for journalists of color

You don’t have to tell EVERYONE how much money you currently or have made in order to participate in salary transparency.

A quote from Emma Carew Grovum says, "No matter what kind of role you hold or what kind of influence you think you have, you can make a difference by participating in some form of salary transparency."

(Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash)

About this series: Sincerely, Leaders of Color is written for everyone in the journalism industry who cares about creating a more supportive environment for journalists of color to do their best work. Have a question for the team? Drop it here and watch for it in a future column. This column is proudly sponsored by the Executive Program and the Tow Knight Center at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY, and our guest writers budget is sponsored by The American Press Institute.

When I give my go-to advice about salary transparency, I often find myself getting a little pushback from some training or workshop participants.

“That would never fly in my newsroom, it’s not our culture.”

“We could never do that where I work, it would be so uncomfortable.”

“I was raised never to talk about money.”

Sometimes I think it’s generational. Sometimes I think it’s cultural. Many of us have been taught not to talk about money and salaries for various reasons.

But that secrecy is exactly what contributes to and sustains the wage gap.

I believe that having some form of salary transparency is a requirement, not a nice-to-have, if you want to run an inclusive hiring and retention process.

This could look like many things across many different roles and news organizations:

  • It could look like posting a salary philosophy, explaining how compensation is thought of and calculated within a company.
  • It could look like a salary survey, breaking out median compensation by gender and race, and across departments.
  • It could look like including a minimum salary or a salary range on job postings.

I come at this argument with a few different lenses:

First, my personal experience. What this looks like for me is regularly tweeting my salary history (something I started doing in 2019). This may look different for others depending on circumstances: what title they hold, what kind of newsroom they’re in, how senior they are in the organization, etc. For example, a nonprofit CEO may see no reason to conceal her salary, knowing it will be made public in the organization’s tax filings. Another editor might not choose to share her salary publicly, but regularly tells her mentees and others about how much she makes privately.

Second, my role as a coach and trainer. It is quite literally my job in these sessions to challenge my client’s thinking so they can improve their own practices. News organizations hire me because they know I can push them outside their comfort zones in order to create change.

My role is to coach news organizations into the next steps of their journey around Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB). This often results in organizations undergoing some discomfort as they transition away from toxic cultures and exclusionary hiring practices. It would be amazing if every newsroom I worked with took every piece of my advice and implemented it with enthusiasm. Of course, that’s not how it works and the best I can do is hope that at least one radical-to-them idea sticks and helps their team move the ball forward.

Finally, some thoughts on my own limitations in giving this recommendation: I’m not currently hiring in a newsroom nor job-seeking for a full-time newsroom role. While I negotiate consulting and speaking pay for myself constantly, I am not in a position to implement my own advice in a newsroom.

But, I LOVE talking to news organizations about building an equitable hiring practice. If you are totally new to this subject, I highly recommend a series started by Tiff Fehr from the New York Times, also written for Source.

From her initial column: “Build a process worthy of good applicants. We want to find the best applicants for the job, so why treat them to an ad-hoc effort? Applicants are evaluating us as much as we are evaluating them. Thoughtful hiring is a strong signal to applicants about the professionalism and culture of our teams.”

What the past few years have shown us is that it’s no longer enough to simply tweet your jobs and hope candidates will do the work to find you and apply.

If you’re not including salary information with your job tweets, watch out for a “sad trombone” response from watchdog account, @WritersOfColor.

If you’re just adding “cc @AAJA, @NABJ, etc” at the end of your tweets, watch out for the occasional tweet from me, reminding folks that this is an inherently inequitable practice.

A tweet by Emma Carew Grovum that says, 'And so, you now have nonBIPOC editors asking BIPOC staff of these orgs for retweets to help them with recruitment. For free. But these are orgs that have PAID memberships and PAID job sharing boards. So you are essentially asking these orgs to waive their revenue stream.'

So no matter what kind of role you hold or what kind of influence you think you have, you can make a difference by participating in some form of salary transparency.

If you’re leaving an organization, tweet your salary, so folks applying for your open role know what a fair rate is. Victoria Walker, former The Points Guy reporter, did so on her way out:

Others, myself included, joined her by sharing their salary histories too.

Yet, not everyone was signing up to share their current or past salaries with the masses.

So my point is this:

You don’t have to tell EVERYONE how much money you currently or have made in order to participate in salary transparency.

Maybe you tell your close mentee or a few trusted friends in a group chat. Maybe you’ll share it anonymously the next time a Real Media Salaries spreadsheet gets passed around. Maybe you’ll tell your students when you transition to adjuncting. Maybe you’ll tell your interns or fellows as you prepare them for what comes next in their careers.

Data is knowledge, knowledge is power, and power is money.

A slide from Emma's training materials that has a headline of 'TRY IT NOW: Practice salary transparency.' Then, next to a funny gif of it raining money, it says, 'Share your salary information and history. If you’re a man, tell a woman how much you make. If you’re white, tell a colleague of color how much you make. Do your part to close the wage gap.'

(Slide courtesy of Kimbap Media.)

Finally, if you’re involved in a hiring process and you can offer a candidate from a historically underpaid and excluded background a fair or above market rate salary, just do it. Don’t make this person meet unrealistic expectations of extraordinary, don’t make them jump through outdated negotiation hoops and rituals.

If you don’t have a compensation statement or philosophy, describing how compensation and salaries are calculated at your company, now’s a great time to create one.

If you don’t currently publish salary bands with job descriptions, now’s a great time to start doing so.

If you don’t have clearly defined pathways to promotion and raises, now is a great time to start educating your staff, so they don’t all have to go out and bring a competing offer to the table to even be considered for a raise (in fact — let’s just kill off this practice entirely and stop wasting everyone’s time!)

Figure out where you can contribute to closing the wage gap for journalists of color and act now.

Emma Carew Grovum
P. Kim Bui
Leaders of Color

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  • Emma Carew Grovum

    Emma Carew Grovum is a journalist and technologist in New York City. As the founder of Kimbap Media, she coaches and consults with newsrooms on key strategy areas including leadership, product thinking, and diversity/equity/inclusion.


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