Last August, I celebrated working ten years at The Wall Street Journal. I also quit, because I was making about $13,000 less than some of my male colleagues.
I was one of three live show producers on the WSJ video team. We did everything. We booked guests and wrote scripts. We worked with editors and the control room. We picked up guests and escorted them to makeup. We commissioned graphics and sourced photos. We wrote banners, bios, and on-screen titles. We wrote the headlines and copy for the video clips. We didn't have daily deadlines — in live TV, your deadlines come in minutes.
We all worked really hard, every single day, to deliver world-class WSJ video. While we all had different career backgrounds, no one outranked anyone else.
We were all equal when it came to having the same workflows, the same deadlines, and the same expectations from the bosses.
We were also all paid wildly different salaries.
My appeals to human resources yielded nothing. The union reps said they would look into it, and they noted that other WSJ women were asking about pay gaps. Soon after I met with them, the union published a survey showing that, from 2000 to 2016, WSJ's female employees were paid 24 percent less on average than their male counterparts. On the lowest rung: black and Latina women. Shortly after the union released its findings, in March 2016, executives at WSJ said that they were going to look into reducing the gender pay gap.
The pay gap I experienced jibes with what's going on outside the Journal building: A 2017 Joint Economic Committee report found that a woman makes an average of $10,500 less per year than her male counterparts; this disparity adds up to nearly a half-million dollars over the course of a career. A 2016 report by the nonpartisan Economic Policy Institute found that women's median hourly wages relative to men's have stalled since 1979. Even when accounting for education, women earn less than men at every wage level, and that gap is larger for women of color.
The gender pay gap doesn't just impact your bank account, however. In my case, knowing I was worth less than someone else had a direct impact on my self-esteem and my work. I felt trapped. Each time I delivered excellent work, the satisfaction of a job well done was undermined by the knowledge that my extra efforts came with a priced-in discount. Conversely, when I made mistakes, I'd catch myself being resentful, because why try if the playing field wasn't even?
One day in August, I had a particularly bad day, and I thought: Why am I trying so hard? I still hadn't been contacted about any pay raises, and the WSJ's investigation into pay gaps was over. They'd found no significant issues, company executives said.
I'll never forget that month, when I left work each day, just broken. This time, I wondered if I might be depressed because I'd feel angry and sad for an entire work shift. When I stepped back, I saw that while I was miserable for hours on end, that feeling would instantly lift as soon as I left work. I guess I just got tired of being unhappy. It was not unlike finally admitting that a relationship you've invested everything into just isn't working, despite your hardest efforts.
I quit as the biggest political election in history was ramping up and news was going into overdrive. (Within two weeks of my leaving, the other female producer also quit.)