Equal pay and better pay
THE APRIL branch meeting discussion on equal pay - or not - for men and women freelances batted on longer than most in living memory. And that despite our speaker, Carmel McHenry, being ill and unable to attend.
There was a general admission that none of us in the meeting, and very likely no one else in the union either, has the slightest idea whether there really is pay inequality between the sexes in our sector - in absence of our expert, this just seemed as good a place as any to start exploring the topic.
Freelance editor and LFB webcreature Mike Holderness had produced an "analysis" of Rate for the Job data submitted online. This was a mere statistical bagatelle, the very opposite of science, and yet... rates submitted to the site revealed women doing shifts averaged £127.33 per day, and men £115.28; women writers averaged £265.23 per thousand words, men £274.67. Hopefully more pertinent, submissions from NUJ member subs averaged £120.49 per day, non-members £116.58; NUJ member writers £308.89 per thousand words, non-members £257.11.
A couple of female members felt that women freelances tended to be paid less for the same job because their negotiatory style in dealing with commissioning editors was often more acquiescent. In other words, men perhaps reaped a bolshieness dividend.
While this notion could only be anecdotal, several women speakers did say that they would like to improve their negotiation skills. It was announced that the next, free LFB training session on individual negotiation would be in October, though it's possible the NUJ's national training office will run a course earlier than that if there is a demand.
But many stressed they did feel reasonably confident in handling negotiations, quoting the value of information from such sources as Rate For The Job and the respected status of the NUJ Freelance Fees Guide - latest edition out now - as substantial tools in achieving fees appropriate to their abilities and needs.
It was generally agreed that this was a topic on which we should try to find out more, rather than accepting our ignorance. Follow-up suggestions included asking Carmel McHenry back in May, looking into the best way to develop contact/networking between female and male members who share the challenges of freelancing while bringing up children, and tweaking the Rate For The Job web form so that it can register whether submissions refer to work done by a man or a woman.