Equal Pay Day: How Women Get Stiffed in Media and the Arts


Today is Equal Pay Day, and you don’t have to approve of Patricia Arquette’s poorly considered Oscar-night comments to get behind her push for gender pay equity, which is far from a realized goal in America. The pay gap directly or indirectly affects most workers and their families: women in the US working full-time make only 78 cents for every dollar a man makes, while it gets worse when compounded with racial inequality: a Latina woman earns only 56 cents to that dollar.

While finance and the insurance industry may be worse, the culture world has its own pay and representation gap. Below is a brief look at some of the disparities in the arts, media, and other cultural industries. The data here is incomplete — I couldn’t find anything reliable about the music industry, for instance — but it’s worth noting that race inevitably adds a second pay gap, while less visibility for women in an industry, or women’s skewing younger or pooling in non-management positions compared to men, generally suggests a larger pay inequality too.

Book Publishing:

According to Publishers Weekly‘s 2014 salary survey, the salary gap in the publishing industry is massive — even though women comprise the majority of the workforce. Women were also underrepresented in management.

Meanwhile, the pay gap between men and women—the other well-known imbalance in the industry—continued in 2013, even though women accounted for 74% of the publishing workforce and men only 26%. The average compensation for men in 2013 was $85,000, the same as in 2012, while average compensation for women rose to $60,750 last year, up from $56,000 the year before. Women filled at least 70% of the jobs in sales and marketing, operations, and editorial, but only 51% of the management positions.


While there’s no exact cents on the dollar figure for film, we do know a few statistics that suggest a massive pay gap thanks to the Celluloid Ceiling report in 2014.

First of all, women are relegated to less profitable genres: “women were most likely to work in the documentary and comedy genres. They were least likely to work in the action and horror genres” — two major grossers. And as for overall representation behind the screen, little has budged in decades: “In 2014, women comprised 17% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 250 (domestic) grossing films. This is the same percentage of women working in these roles in 1998.”


In gaming, a survey found that “on average, women made 86 cents on every dollar that men made in the US game industry,” which is better than the overall number but, obviously, not full parity.


A yawning gender chasm persists in TV acting and directing.

For instance: The Director’s Guild of America found that in 2013, “The percentage of episodes directed by white females inched up from 11 percent to 12 percent,” while “the percentage of episodes directed by minority females slid from 4 percent to 2 percent.” For actors, there’s an added age gap on TV that suggests men are being paid better because they’re older and likely more experienced: “women with speaking parts tended to be considerably younger than men: 30 percent of men but 19 percent of women were in their 20s; 22 percent of men and 14 percent of women were in their 40s.”

Art Sales:

After a single Georgia O’ Keeffe sale, the gender disparity in art sales narrowed, according to FiveThirtyEight.com, but not far enough: “The art sale ‘record gap’ is now about 31 cents to the dollar. Before Thursday, it was 8 cents.”

Literary journals:

We already know, thanks to VIDA, that the literary magazine world is limping towards equality in terms of bylines. But it’s worth noting that legacy publications like The London Review of Books and The New York Review of Books tend to be male-dominated losers in the VIDA count — while being winners in how much they pay.

The Mainstream Media:

The Women’s Media Center commissioned a study of “27,000 pieces of content produced from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, 2013, at 20 of the most widely circulated, read, viewed, and listened to TV networks, newspapers, news wires, and online news sites in the United States.” The conclusion? “Women collectively were outnumbered by men—whether as paid full-time, freelance writers, online, in print or on air—or as citizen journalists or as non-paid commentators. Overall, 63.4 percent of those with bylines and on-camera appearances were men, while women constituted 36.1 percent of contributors.” We know that digital media is narrowing the byline gap, but we also know that digital media pays less than print.