The women who are not there

Mei Fong asks how much more are men paid.

About 50 percent, in the BBC journalist Carrie Gracie’s case. Over the weekend, Ms. Gracie quit as the broadcaster’s China editor and announced she was returning to London. “Enough is enough,” she wrote, in an astringent open letter, describing how she discovered last year that the BBC paid two of its four international editors — men, of course — 50 percent more than the female editors.

(I think it was closer to twice as much.)

It says something when it’s considered an advancement for women just to get to the bargaining table and ask for equal pay. Many of us never even get that far.

More than a decade ago, I was coming off a successful summer stint as a Wall Street Journal reporting intern. Naturally, I vied with other interns for a full-time reporting job. A post came up in the Hong Kong bureau. Did I, a Cantonese speaker with prior Asian reporting experience, get it? I wasn’t even asked to apply. Instead, a fellow intern with no prior Asia experience was hired. He was white.

There were no doubt other variables, but still that seems odd.

Last year, the Independent Association of Publishers’ Employees reported a persistent wage gap between men and women employed by Dow Jones, The Journal’s parent company. The report found that full-time female employees make on average less than 85 percent of what their male counterparts earn, even when accounting for differences in age and location. And there is a distinct and persistent gap between pay for men and for women, even when they hold the same job title and have worked the same amount of time. Dow Jones female employees in New York — hardly a cheap place to live — made $10,000 less than their male counterparts, and $13,000 less in Washington. Multiply that difference over the span of a career and that’s the home you can never buy, or several children’s college educations.

Ok but on the plus side, you get lots of sexual invitations on the job.

Our understanding of China would be hugely diminished without the contribution of many outstanding female correspondents. There was The New Yorker’s China correspondent Emily Hahn, who wrote the first authoritative biography of the Soong sisters and had met both Mao and Zhou Enlai. (She frequently complained in letters home of being underpaid and financially strapped.) Or Time magazine’s Annalee Jacoby, who had to work around the War Department’s rules forbidding female correspondents. Rather patronizingly called the “girl reporter of this war” during World War II, she co-wrote the best seller “Thunder Out of China,” chronicling the Chiang Kai-shek era. Ms. Jacoby would later give up her foreign correspondent career for marriage and motherhood.

The case for equal pay is the case for better reporting. Pay women equally to men and more women will stay in the business; more women lessens the preponderance of male viewpoints and allows a clearer presentation of how things are. Certainly female reporters who covered the Vietnam War have made the case that their gender frequently helped them look beyond a near-fetishistic coverage of guns and bombs to the real costs of war.

To put it another way, it would be quite a good idea to get the whole human story and not just half of it.

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