Ranjona Banerji: Fair deal for women in media?

01 Aug,2017

By Ranjona Banerji

 

Here’s the sad truth: I have no real clue about gender pay gaps in the Indian media. The recent revelations that the BBC paid men significantly more than women, even when they worked in the same programmes and in same capacities has created a massive controversy in the UK and in the media everywhere. The highest paid male presenter got five times more than the highest paid female presenter.

The BBC management has promised to bring parity of sorts by 2020. It says that it has already filled one goal – to bring more women in. Of course, as usual, some male commentators have gone back to the old chestnuts about how men deserve to be paid more because they work harder, are testosterone-driven, fall sick less often and do not get pregnant. Is it amusing that these tired lies are still being used in the 21st century or does one just pity their mothers?

Columnist Kevin Myers of the Sunday Times Ireland has been sacked after he wrote a column with various sexist comments. Even worse, he said that two female presenters were amongst the most highly paid because they were Jewish. His column has been taken down from the website and the newspaper’s editors have apologised.

The crux of the issue remains: sexism in the media where it hurts the most – your pay packet. On the whole, my impression is that in the last three decades, the Indian media been fairer to women. The generations before me fought hard for the rights to cover issues beyond what was usually assigned to women and contentious issues like take night shifts on the desk. Several women have headed newspapers and now even television channels.

But when it comes to salaries, I am not so sure. Certainly, where I have been involved in hiring and in appraisals at entry to mid-levels, there has been gender parity. When I started working we were all paid peanuts, regardless of gender, and depended upon the Bachawat Award to determine how much our employers had gypped us.

Post

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liberalisation and post-television, the media changed, hiring patterns changed and the contract system became the norm. Although one got a lot more money under the contract system, since there were no government-determined rigid slabs any more, there was no way of knowing who earned what. You had to either be the decision-maker or have spies in the HR department to get to know who earned what.

My suspicions though are that in most of my jobs, there was fair equality in pay packets. This would include Bombay magazine, Mid-Day, Gentleman and The Times of India. It is in my last job

​(no, not the Times) ​

that for the first time in my working career that I felt that the media was a man’s game. At the senior levels, your pay packet depended solely on your negotiating skills and this meant that people who did nothing could easily end up earning more in higher positions than other more deserving and hard-working candidates.

The CEO who know nothing about publishing and learnt nothing for his several years on the job earned a massive bomb. Of course it is unfair of me to mention the CEO because we all know that in the corporate world there is no need for a direct co-relation between output and input.

As for the Indian media, perhaps it is time that pay packets were all in the open so that we know where we all stand.

 

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