Dayna Evans almost didn’t write this post in Medium that exposes gender bias and a wage gap at Gawker Media.
Her reasoning may sound familiar to many women:
“I almost scrapped what I had written, as I found myself being asked to question whether the incidents and stories I had experienced and been told about represented a serious, ingrained cultural problem at the company, or in the media at large,” says Evans, a former staff writer for Gawker who now writes for New York Magazine’s “The Cut.”
But she pressed on, spurred to take a deeper look after an editorial changing of the guard replaced one male editor-in-chief with another man. This despite the fact that a woman–Leah Beckmann–served in the position as interim leader for four months. Beckmann would later tell Evans, “To say that Gawker treats men and women equally is simply untrue.”
As Evans points out, Gawker’s division of labor is like many other media properties where women are frequently managing or deputy editors. “This task can be thankless no matter where a woman works, but especially so at a place like Gawker, where bylines are associated with traffic and traffic is associated with success,” Evans writes, adding that “Tireless invisible labor, after all, costs nothing to abuse.”
Evans takes Gawker’s leadership to task for its cursory nod to Beckmann “stepping into the breach and helping out” even though the site was in a state of flux and she was still able to oversee its highest traffic day in history. Evans calls this recognition both dismissive and gendered. “Only a woman would be thanked for ‘helping out.’”
What’s more noteworthy to Evans is that a company that’s been built on exposing “the real story — the account you won’t (or can’t) find anywhere else” has been harboring a secret for years.
That is until last Monday when Gawker’s John Cook published published race and gender diversity statistics for the entire company on Gawker’s Politburo channel: Overall it’s very white-male-centric. Seventy-nine percent of staff are white and of them 57% are men. The editorial staff is 38% percent female, which Evans notes is skewed by the fact that Jezebel.com’s is almost all women. “Excluding the women-focused site from his stats would skew editorial to being only 28% female,” Evans writes.
Evans points out that in its efforts to remake the company, Gawker didn’t actually change much at all. “Despite his having paid lip service to the idea of reaching beyond the usual precincts to find a new executive editor and a new editor of Gawker.com, despite his having made lots of noise in the press about changing the face of the company, Denton wound up installing two male Gawker Media veterans in jobs that had been held by two male Gawker Media veterans before them,” she writes.
And with a lack of diversity, came a discrepancy in pay for female staff, Evans notes. With radical transparency as an operating tenet, Evans wasn’t shy about approaching colleagues to ask how much they earned.
This was prompted in part, when Gawker Media made history as the first online-only media outlet to organize. At the time, Hamilton Nolan, Gawker’s longest tenured staff writer, said that Gawker is “well run and pays competitive salaries,” but there are still issues to address. Namely: “We would like to ensure that things like pay and raises are set in a fair, transparent, and unbiased way. We would like to have some basic mechanism for giving employees a voice in the decisions that affect all of us here.”
But when Danya started probing the particulars of pay, she says she was met with “either mild interest or argumentative dismissal” among her male colleagues. “At one point I was advised by a male superior —a man I like and consider a friend, and who is both progressive and feminist — to not “dick-measure over salary” when I became aware of distinct difference in pay among writers with equivalent jobs,” she writes.
So much for baring all as a strategy to eliminate the gender pay gap.
What’s worse is that Evans almost pulled the plug on publishing this story. And the fact that others were reluctant to speak out because they feared repercussions. “One female editor at a heavily male website told me she was thrilled to see [this story] written but could not speak to me on the record.”
Sound familiar? Even Jennifer Lawrence says she didn’t negotiate for equal pay because she didn’t want to appear difficult or spoiled and recounts how she was dressed down for stating her opinion in a “no bullshit way,” something Lawrence notes her male colleagues never hear.
Women have played integral roles in developing and growing Gawker Media, just as they have at businesses across the globe. As Emma Carmichael, Jezebel’s current editor-in-chief and former managing editor of both Gawker and Deadspin, told Evans, it’s impossible for “invisible female management” to get recognized for their work, because it “isn’t missed until they leave out of frustration or get forced out. It’s a shameful cycle.” And one that needs more than a few conversations to change.