Women in the telecommunications industry earned $6,774 less
annually than their male counterparts -- a steady decline from previous years -- according
to a study released last week by the Women in Cable & Telecommunications Foundation, a
nonprofit group based in Chicago
According to the study -- which was based on 851 responses
from men and women working in technical fields within the telecommunications industry --
women earned 11.5 percent less than "similarly employed men" in 1997. That
marked a big step backward -- the salary gap between women and men in 1996 was just 9
In 1997, the average male salary was $58,785 annually,
compared with $52,041 for the average female. Men also reported higher annual raises (10.2
percent) than women (7.2 percent).
"While [the telecommunications] segment had narrowed
the pay gap, [technical services] was the only area where the pay gap was actually
widening," said Jim Flanigan, a spokesman for WICT. "The general trend had been
that [the pay gap] was going to narrow. We were floored."
And even more surprising, Flanigan said, was the fact that
there was no reasonable explanation for the increased salary disparity between men and
women in the industry.
According to the study, educational background and tenure
had little to do with salary levels, as more women (50.7 percent) had undergraduate or
advanced degrees than men (31.7 percent). And both men and women appeared to receive
promotions at a comparable rate -- 61 percent of women reported getting promotions,
compared with 63 percent of men..
The study was conducted by WICT, Cablevision
magazine and CableFile. The latter two are sister publications to Multichannel
News. About 18,000 surveys were sent to men and women in the cable and
telecommunications field. Of the respondents, 733 were men and 118 were women.
Although the salary disparity was high for women in
telecommunications, it was nothing when compared with those working for equipment
According to the study, women who worked for equipment
suppliers made 17.6 percent less than their male colleagues did in 1997. Women in this
sector reported base salaries of $51,680, compared with men, who made $59,995. This was an
increase over 1996, when the gap was 13.8 percent.
According to WICT, women not only feel underpaid on the
job, but also greatly underappreciated.
"What we have is a couple of things going on,"
Flanigan said. "There are very few women in the industry, and the ones who are there
feel more like window dressing than anything else."
WICT stressed that companies should take a hard look at
their compensation policies and seek to provide incentives in addition to salary that will
help them to retain their best workers.
"This should raise some flags in people's
minds," Flanigan said. "This is not an improving situation."
Few cable operators returned calls seeking comment.
Cablevision Systems Corp. issued a statement saying,
"Cablevision's hiring, advancement and compensation practices are based on
merit. From the board of directors to presidents of our programming networks, women hold
positions at the highest levels throughout the company."