Monday, November 22, 2010

If I Were a Boy: On Being Female in Publishing

I work in trade book publishing, an industry generally dominated by women. Some divisions are filled with more men than others -- the business office, IT, much of upper management, in particular -- but the fields people most think of when they think of a publishing house are, in my experience, predominantly made of women -- editorial, copyediting, even sales and the publisher's office. I work for a major imprint (sort of a mini-publisher) of one of the top four or five publishing houses in the country -- my boss is a woman, and her boss is a woman, and her boss is a woman. In fact, my imprint is one in my house with the best representation of men, and we have five men -- out of a team of about 30. So it's pretty different from many industries in that there are more women employees than there are men, and that there are more women in higher positions of power.

Interestingly, the publishing industry pays very little -- many entry level positions start around $28,000 (in New York City!). I can't help but wonder if these two things are related.
Yes, book publishing is like any other media industry -- thin margins, long hours, unpaid internships, and one of the first things consumers cut back on when money gets tight. But we've all heard that women ask for less money up front, women are less likely to negotiate salary when being hired, women are less likely to ask for a raise. In an industry that mostly hires young women, should it really be surprising that most entry level employees don't negotiate their starting salaries, and therefore spend the rest of their careers trying to catch up?

It's great to work in an industry dominated by women, where I'm surrounded by great women to look up to and I can truly aspire towards positions of power. In general, it's an industry that welcomes having a family and working from home (most actual editing is done there anyway), and at least in my experience has been very understanding about people needing time off for maternity leave, children's schedules, and even provides day care on site. But I can't help but wonder what it would do for general pay levels if more men were coming into the industry on an entry level basis. Would they be negotiating for better starting salaries, therefore raising the norm for all employees?

According to PayScale, I am making right about the average for my position -- but I also know that my predecessor was making 50% more than I am now. She had about five years more experience than I do, so ideally my raises each year will put me on pace to earn that much in another four years or so (I have been in the publishing industry for four years, but my current position only one). I know that a former colleague with my same job title definitely did negotiate for his salary AND for his subsequent raises -- and while I don't know what he ended up making, I know that to live in the neighborhood he did, he must have been making twice what I am now. So I know that it works.

When I was offered my first job with this company, I negotiated my salary. I didn't do a terrific job of it, I guess -- I accepted a whopping $500 more annually than I was originally offered. I was desperate to get my foot in the door, and I was still getting a small raise from my previous job. From where I sit now, I know that that is the top end of the salary range for that job title. It just didn't occur to me to ask for a slightly better title for the same job. That slightly better title would have given me about $4,000 more -- something I got after less than a year, but still. Had I asked for it up front, maybe I would have gotten another $2,000, and each raise and salary-based bonus after that would have had just a little more oomph. Would a guy in that position have done so? I suspect the answer is yes.

I love my job. I love books, and I love book people, and while I'd only do the reading part for free, I'm generally happy with my job and how I'm compensated. I know my supervisors value my work, and they've shown it at every review and year-end bonus period. I worry sometimes that my tendency as a woman to not negotiate and not directly ask for a raise are keeping me from money I could be earning. It doesn't bother me enough to spur me to action, which is perhaps the problem with working in such a female-dominated industry in general -- of the 80% of the workforce that's female, probably 75% are content to accept what is given and not ask for more, thus ensuring we all get less than we could.



"If I were a Boy" Carnival

This post is part of a series of bloggers sharing their candid experiences or observations about women in the workplace which is not at all meant to be a male-bashing expedition whatsoever.

Please head over to these other wonderful bloggers and read about their experiences.


4 comments:

  1. This is an interesting point you've made:

    " In an industry that mostly hires young women, should it really be surprising that most entry level employees don't negotiate their starting salaries, and therefore spend the rest of their careers trying to catch up?"

    Perhaps that's exactly it. We start lowballing ourselves rather than asking for a higher salary with translates to even lower and lower salaries as the years go by, with everyone competing for the same job.

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  2. "Had I asked for it up front, maybe I would have gotten another $2,000, and each raise and salary-based bonus after that would have had just a little more oomph."

    THis is the most insidious part of the "oh it's only $X more." Those small differences, compounded with raises and promotions, can turn into a $40K difference.

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  3. It's kind of like when "females" go car shopping, right?

    The car salespeople RELISH when females go car shopping alone as they know we can be low balled and are nonconfrontational when it comes to negotiations.

    :(

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  4. I just left my job (now I am blogging)in the science field and I can tell you that (in my case) having a male dominated field did not make my pay go up.

    Well, I guess I do not know what it did for the average, but I know that women were paid less. Most of it was under the guise of "more likely to take time off" and it was even brought up that they were less likely to "have a family to support" so they were offered lower starting salaries.

    Working with men was horrible. I was once told that "after you have a baby make sure you do not walk around your husband naked because women are gross after that". The same person would constantly ask about my personal life with my husband in very crude ways. I complained and was told that that was just the way he was and as a woman looking to get into management I needed to learn to deal with such comments since they will always be there.

    I hope it isn't that way everywhere...

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Thanks for commenting!