Despite the gender domination of freelancing, female freelancers working in the media sector may be experiencing a significant pay gap. According to a 2015 survey by the Writer’s Union of Canada, female writers earn only 55% of what their male counterparts make.
On August 22, Gawker.com, the eponymous news and politics brand of media behemoth Gawker Media, officially folded. While the company’s other blogs, including Gizmodo, Jezebel, and Deadspin, will live on in some form under the wing of Univision, Gawker’s ending sent shockwaves across the media industry.
For media companies, it was a frightening reminder of how privately funded lawsuits could bring any publisher to its knees.
But for freelancers, the story was a more chilling example of how words can have personal and professional consequences. I may not be releasing 1,400-word expositions of celebrity sex tapes onto the web (and vowing not to take them down), but rulings like that of the Hogan case trickle down as precedent.
If you’re a freelance writer, the majority of your editors are probably male and the majority of your colleagues are probably female. That’s not just an anecdotal generalization.
The American Society of News Editors (ASNE)’s latest report showed that, on average, women make up only 37 percent of newsroom staffs and hold only 35 percent of supervisor roles. Yet women account for approximately 73 percent of journalism grads and constitute about 70 percent of enrollees in MFA programs in the U.S, according to a report from the Women’s Media Center.
As traditional salaried writing careers become rarer, both former newsroom staffers and journalistic greenhorns alike are diving in to the world of freelancing. For some it’s by choice, but for up to two-thirds, it’s circumstance.
For women, pushed to the margins of the media industry, freelancing is often the only way forward—and, not surprisingly, wages have come to reflect the gender gap.