FT journalists accuse paper of prioritising commercial initiatives over gender parity

Journalists at FT say newspaper has prioritised commercial initiatives over real steps towards gender parity

Journalists at the Financial Times held a meeting this week with the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) to outline demands for the newspaper to reach gender parity well before its 2022 target after expressing concerns the issues weren’t being prioritised.

James Lamont, managing editor at the FT, sent an email to staff on 22 March explaining that men working at the paper were earning an average of 13% more than women doing a similar job, a percentage that has worsened by 1% since last year. The gender gap is the widest it has been in a decade.

At the time Lamont said the board and HR are working to understand “the reasons behind this and seek to address it”.

The data is based on 405 staff working at the FT with a UK contract. The data does not include assistant and associate editors, who are predominantly higher paid men, therefore it is likely that the real gap is wider than 13%.

The FT employs around 550 journalists around 40 bureaux around the world. More than 50% are NUJ members.

The FT’s target for achieving gender parity is 2022, two years after the BBC’s much criticised deadline for pay parity.

What’s more, the journalists believe targets for action - including increasing numbers of women in senior jobs and improving female pay averages - have become recast as “ambitions” . The journalists said FT managers “appear to have prioritised commercial initiatives over real steps towards pay parity”.

The journalists reportedly took particular umbrage with what the FT represents in its editorial - with a recent leader in the paper arguing that “women are right to be angry at the pay gap” - while it internally doesn't do enough to fix gender disparity.

“As employees of a media group that holds other businesses to account over transparency and high standards, we, male and female journalists at the FT at every level, want the company to commit to a deadline for ending the gender pay gap as soon as possible," the meeting notes read.

"It’s time for the Financial Times to put its money where its mouth is."

The journalists have asked the FT Group to share details of mean and median gross annual earnings of men and women by job title and age, and provide detailed averages showing that the gap is closing for all, not just those in more senior roles. These should include reference to financial incentives and bonuses for senior and executive staff, including the chief executive, the note read.

They asked the FT to follow the example of the Wall Street Journal, which last month pledged to fix its gender problem after a report found that, on average, full-time female employees make less than 85% of what their male counterparts earn.

The FT has also been asked to release information on pay gaps on grounds of ethnicity, social background/education and disability.

The NUJ members said the paper "ought to be ashamed" if it enters the year 2020 - the 50th anniversary of the passing of the Equal Pay Act - with anything less than pay equality. They said they would be prepared to support industrial action in pursuit of this goal should it be required.

The FT responded by sharing an internal note, which read: "There have been misleading reports on the FT’s gender pay position. To clarify, we have not seen anything to indicate there is an equal pay issue at the FT, meaning an unjustifiable pay difference between men and women who carry out the same or similar jobs. We take any such claim seriously.

"The gender pay gap — which is an aggregate number for all men and women across all roles and should not be confused with equal pay — reflects the composition of our workforce, including high retention of long serving men, more early and mid-career women, and fewer women in higher paying functions such as technology. The pay gap is decreasing as more women enter senior leadership positions and more men in later stages of their careers leave the company. Our commitment to achieve gender parity in our senior leadership group by 2022 will reduce the gender pay gap further."

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