When asked about how best to improve systemic inequity around finances, Folake* one mid-career journalist I spoke to said,
“be transparent about pay!”
It seems so simple, and yet it’s a battle cry that many before us have sung and those today continue to sing. So the question remains…what will it take to reach this?
“What they don’t tell you,” says Kathleen Newman Bremang in her article for Refinery29, “especially if your professors are white, is that for Black women, your career will be littered with shattered hopes and lined with shards of broken dreams.”
And unfortunately, that includes the paychecks we see — or don’t see — throughout each level of our career.
When Folake first started at CBC — one of the major broadcasters here in Canada, she says, “my contract as an intern was for the equivalent of $48,000/year. I remember getting my first contract and thinking I was RICH because I didn’t realize this was before taxes – and Quebec taxes at that. Still, I remember getting about $1,400 in my account every two weeks and being shocked that I could make a living wage and save money doing radio work. My salary didn’t change that much in the next 3 years. It never got higher than $52,000/year or so.”
The Canadian Association of Journalists inaugural diversity survey reports nearly 80 percent of newsrooms don’t have Black journalists on staff. Folake expresses how being one of the few in the room is exhausting.
“Part of the exhaustion about being a Black woman in media is that you know anti-Black racism can always be at play, so you always have to stay vigilant.”
This vigilance is not accounted for when considering hiring a Black journalist. “I honestly think we should be paid more in general because of the emotional toll of being Black in media,” says Folake. “Not a month goes by where you’re not dealing with the burden of being a Black person in the newsroom on top of having to do your job like everyone else.”
Following the completion of her master’s program, Folake had the expectation of receiving a salary in the $70,000/year range. However, her reality was starkly different.
““When I left grad school, I was definitely looking to get closer to the $70,000/year range working in communications or as a specialized journalist in a higher-paying province like Ontario. The pandemic rerouted everything, and I ended up becoming a freelance journalist, which I love, but the pay varies a lot.”
Folake is not alone in her experience.
Hope* recalls her professors telling the class the competitiveness of the journalism field would weed out 90 percent of the class…she was the only Black woman in her class. With the statistics showing how little Black women were hired in newsrooms and by publications, she was quickly overwhelmed.
“My parents always wanted me to find a job with more financial security. Even if I was good and talented at what I did, the lack of job and financial security was always in the back of my mind,” she says.
A study by the BlackNorth Initiative and Boston Consulting Group showed that “Black Canadians are twice as likely to be unemployed as non-racialized Canadians (17 per cent versus 9 per cent), and for Black women, the number is even higher (19 per cent). University-educated Black Canadians earn an average of 80 cents for every dollar earned by their white peers.”
It would be too idyllic to say no one should suffer due to the career they chose to pursue. However, we live and work within a system that has not and still does not favor racialized, working women. Events such as the “reckoning” that took place in 2020 provided opportunities for organizations to pause and reassess their current programs and policies. But two years later, we see that many of those implementations were either not sustainable or required the additional labour of the Black employees.
When it comes to working to provide financial equity, especially within Canadian media, Folake suggests, “there should also be an anonymized way to see who makes what in an organization and how much experience they have. Employers should have this data disaggregated by gender and race and have a framework for making sure that employees are paid equitably.”
It’s a small step, but small steps that are actually implemented will always outweigh empty grand gestures that are performative in nature..
*Names have been changed for purposes of anonymity
Josie Fomé is a multimedia Journalist with a keen interest on issues related to the African Continent and the African diaspora. She has international experience in community facilitation, radio show production and documentary film making. She has a passion for reshaping and creating new narratives surrounding the African continent and the African diaspora through story telling in all its forms.
Newman-Bremang, K. (2020, July 9). For black women in media, a “Dream job” is a myth. My Experiences With Systemic Racism In Canadian Media. Retrieved April 5, 2022, from https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2020/07/9904035/systemic-racism-canadian-media
Canadian Association of Journalists – Diversity Survey results 2021. (n.d.). Retrieved April 5, 2022, from https://caj.ca/diversitysurveyresults
CB Staff November 17, 2020. (2020, December 3). The Black Experience in Canada: Keynote speaker, Wes Hall – Canadian business. Canadian Business – Your Source For Business News. Retrieved April 5, 2022, from https://archive.canadianbusiness.com/videos/growth-ceo-summit/growth-2020-ceo-summit-keynote-the-black-experience-in-canada-wes-hall/