Nearly 10 years ago when I started Arment Dietrich, I sat in meeting after meeting where the (male) prospect would ask me when they got to meet my husband.
At first I thought, “Oh, how nice. They’d like to socialize with us.” Then I realized I was wrong.
I don’t remember what business it was today, but I remember we were in the final negotiations with a company to close the biggest contract we’d have had.
The men showed up in our conference room, put their Halliburton briefcases on the table, took off their expensive suit jackets—Rolex watches gleaming in the sun coming through the east window—and said they were ready to get down to business.
But, before they signed, they said, they had to meet my male partner.
“I don’t have a male partner,” I said.
“What do you mean?” one of the prospects asked. “Who is running your business?”
“I am,” I proudly said.
The other prospect looked at his business partner and they both slowly stood up. They put their jackets back on and said, “We can’t do business with you.”
And they left.
To this day, that memory shocks me. Ten years ago we still were in an environment where a man had to be in charge.
The PR industry salary survey
Arment Dietrich sees this less and less today because we have a history and many clients who serve as references, but it saddens me to learn it still happens.
To the tune of $47,500.
Men in our industry are paid nearly $50,000 more than women.
Which is crazy. It’s 2015. We are in a female-dominated industry—between 73 and 85 percent female.
In fact, the more experienced you are, the worse it is.
If you have less than five years of experience, the gap is $5,500. More than five years of experience, the gap is $42,000.
What about transparency?
This was the subject of last week’s Inside PR and I got pretty heated about it.
The way I run my business is we have a salary per position. Coordinators are paid the same. Managers are paid the same. Directors are paid the same. Vice presidents are paid the same. And so on.
In some cases, some of my team make more money than I do (I take the risk and get paid on the upswing), but there has never been a male employee who has made more than his female counterpart in this organization.
Joe Thornley, my Inside PR co-host, said they don’t have salaries per title. He said he looks at experience and at how much an individual—male or female—can make for the company. That’s how he figures a person’s offer.
Martin Waxman, my other Inside PR co-host, said it’s been too long since he’s hired employees (he sold his business a few years ago).
As a customer, you know exactly where the money you spend with them every month goes. And, as an employee, you know exactly how much your colleagues make.
Open salaries are based on job type, experience, and location. They also throw in some industry requirements.
The point is, there is fairness in salaries out there. You just have to find the right organization.
What you can do
I’d like to say one survey and one little blog post will change things. It won’t.
But these both may change the way you approach your salary.
For instance, I know for a fact that my male counterparts make quite a good deal more money than I do for speaking engagements—to the tune of $5,000-$15,000 more.
This year, I decided not only am I no longer going to do any free speaking engagements, I am going to walk away from those that won’t pay my full fee.
(I negotiate only in three instances: 1. The speaking engagement is in Chicago; 2. The speaking engagement is for PRSA; or 3. The conference buys Spin Sucks for all of its attendees.)
I walked away from five opportunities this year, only to find out they hired a male colleague and paid him more than my quoted fee.
My perspective is that at least I didn’t have to be away from the office (and from home) for 15 days or more for those engagements. I’m fully billable when I’m sitting at my desk so it’s not lost income.
For employees, particularly women: Stand up for yourself when you are offered a new job. Negotiate your salary. Ask if the organization has transparent salaries. That’s a good start.
For employers: Start with the same salary per title. Then think about a move to transparent salaries. The Buffer model is a good one. You can steal it.
The only way we can close this gap is if we force it. So go do it!
A version of this article first appeared on Spin Sucks.