Women in publishing are actually doing quite well for themselves

ClashOfNarrativesA new Publishers Weekly salary survey of people in the publishing industry is being used to confirm the narrative of the gender pay gap. But if you scratch below the surface, what it really reveals is that—even though they dominate (~70%) non-managerial jobs more than they dominate (51%) management—women in publishing actually get paid and promoted more for their experience and commitment than men do.

How so? The ratio of experience (i.e., averages years of commitment to the industry) in the survey is 17 years for men to 11 for women, while the pay ratio is roughly $85k to $61k. Looks like a pay gap in favor of men, right? Clickety-clack on the calculator, and what it really shows is that women are making more than men for the time they commit to publishing.

One year of commitment to publishing has earned the average man $5000 in salary by 2014. It earned the average woman over $5500. That’s the real pay gap.

This is echoed in the survey’s revelation that the male minority’s salaries have been stagnant, while the female majority’s salaries have increased an average of $5000 over the past year.  All of these phenomena demonstrate a pattern of women getting pay increases systemically more often than men, despite not taking on increasing responsibilities as often by moving into management, or by building up seniority by staying in the industry as long.

That first-glance, misogynist pay gap is an illusion resulting from women not being in the industry as long as men. If they stay in the industry an average of 17 years, as men do to make an average of $85k, they would be making an average of about $94,000/year at their long-term average rate ($5523/year) of rewards, and $90,750/year if that rate levels off at 2014’s rate of $5000/year.

This dynamic seems to be backed up by other (non-gendered) numbers from the survey showing that 70% of raises were due to “merit” (self-reported merit, that is) rather than promotions and only slightly more than half of promotions came with pay raises. Remember that women held slightly more than half of management positions, and 70% of non-management (i.e., not promoted to management) positions. There’s nothing in the figures PW released to link the 70% non-promoted raises and 70% of non-managerial women, or the 55% of promoted-with-raise with the 51% of promoted-to-management women, but the parallels are intriguing and deserve further analysis.

Moreover, even managerial promotions are geared toward less-experienced female personnel, as the average career commitment of women in management (13.5 years) is significantly lower than the average commitment (17 years) for men in all positions including subordinates of those women managers, not to mention the 19-year average commitment of male managers.

To be a manager in publishing takes a 40% longer commitment from men on average than from women. And, if you imagine women investing the same time as men, add 40% onto the current portion of women in management (51%) and you get a bit over 70%, congruent with women’s share of publishing jobs as a whole.

So, if women simply dedicated more years to publishing, that apparent skew between their 70% domination of non-managerial jobs and 51% domination of managerial positions would vanish. They’re getting the promotions far faster than men; enough of them just aren’t sticking around long enough to get promoted.

So, women in publishing see faster gains than men in both pay and promotions, while men are sticking around longer even though they aren’t getting rewarded as often and are being blamed for a pay gap that, once you do the math, actually works against them.

That’s not a narrative. That’s what the numbers say. What I would like to know is why people who claim to be advocating for women seem so eager to make women feel awful when they’re actually doing quite well.

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