Executive recruiter Ann Carlsen said last week that she was
"shocked" by the results of a survey comparing men's and women's salaries at
Women are making 18 percent less than men at programming
companies, according to the survey, which was commissioned by the Women in Cable & Telecommunications
During a conference call on the results, ex-WICT president
Carlsen said the group had "assumed that the programming side of the business was the
best place for women." Yet, "much to our surprise and chagrin," the survey
uncovered the salary inequity, according to Carlsen.
In addition to the survey, several recent events have
raised provocative questions about the role and influence of women in the
Two cable pioneers, and two of the industry's
highest-ranking women USA Network chairman and CEO Kay Koplovitz and Disney/ABC
Cable Networks president Geraldine Laybourne have just left their corporate
Their departures are prompting some industry veterans to
examine several issues: How well are women doing in programming's upper echelon? And with
Koplovitz and Laybourne gone, are women fairly represented in the executive ranks of cable
In a world of more than 200 cable networks, roughly
one-dozen women currently hold top-level positions from president to general
manager or above where they are essentially running their programming services.
Koplovitz, however, drew the distinction that with her
exit, there is virtually a dearth of women CEOs at major cable networks, which she finds
to be a "retrogression."
"I think that I can afford to be critical of the
industry," she said. "I don't think that we have made very good progress. We
have to take off the rose-colored glasses. How do we get women promoted?"
Last week, the WICT survey ripped the rose-colored glasses
off some top-level cable-network executives. A number of them expressed surprise at the
results of the study, mainly the 18 percent gender gap in pay.
"It's inexcusable," said Koplovitz, who was just
appointed chair of the National Women's Business Council by President Clinton. "The
programmer side versus the operator side was thought to be more hospitable to women. It's
indefensible, and companies should check into their own practices."
Said Disney Channel president Anne Sweeney, "If that's
the finding, it's pathetic. I think it's terrible."
Added Erica Gruen, president and CEO of the midsized Food
Network, "I don't think that this is the situation at Food Network. The results are
Laybourne added, "I'm frankly shocked," based on
her experience as one-time head of Nickelodeon, which was 72 percent-staffed by women,
with 50 percent of those in higher-paying senior-management slots.
The WICT programmer study, conducted in conjunction with Cablevision magazine and CableFile (sister companies to Multichannel
News), found that women were being compensated at a lower rate than men with similar
jobs, similar tenure and similar education levels.
The average reported base salary paid to women was $59,531,
versus an average male base salary of $72,808, the survey found.
If total cash compensation, or salary plus bonus, is
considered, then the gap between men and women grows even larger, to nearly 25 percent,
according to the survey. The average salary and bonus reported by women for 1996
the year for which data were collected was $61,890, versus $82,449 for men.
Newly hired women with undergraduate degrees made less than
70 percent of the salaries paid to men with similar education and job tenure, according to
the WICT survey. The results were drawn from 170 men and 311 women, with more than 41
percent of the respondents reporting their position as middle manager.
Lifetime Television president Doug McCormick said he didn't
think that the findings were reflective of his company, where women hold the top ad-sales
and programming positions both high-paying jobs.
As for the issue of top female management, Cartoon Network
Worldwide president Betty Cohen said she was surprised to read, in press accounts about
Koplovitz and Laybourne leaving, that there were no more high-level women executives
remaining in cable.
That was news to Cohen, who, in addition to herself, can
run down a list of women cable-network chiefs, from MTV: Music Television president Judy
McGrath to Home & Garden Television chief operating officer Susan Packard, among
"The focus should be on those of us who are left and
who are running very successful networks," Cohen said. "They [Koplovitz and
Laybourne] did blaze the trail, but we all feel that we are where we are as a result of
our own efforts, as well. We all have a great sense of camaraderie with each other."
Several female cable-network officials said that while
one-dozen female network heads out of roughly 200 or so networks doesn't sound like a lot
and they'd like to see an improvement that track record is admirable when
compared with broadcast, for example.
"In a perfect world, it should be more," AMC
Networks president Kate McEnroe said. "But cable has at least given opportunities to
women more so than broadcast."
Added Kathleen Dore, president of Bravo Networks,
"Certainly, they're [women] underrepresented, if compared with the proportion of men
and women in the population. But if you compare the statistics with other industries,
cable would come out pretty well."
That didn't placate Koplovitz, who argued that it's
important for more women to hold the very top slot, CEO, at cable networks a
position where they are empowered to make sweeping changes at their companies. Pat
Mitchell, president of CNN Productions/Time Inc. Television, had a similar take.
"The good news is that women are running highly
distributed networks with huge budgets," Mitchell said. "But it's not good news
that it's still hard to identify a woman who is really at the top. The glass ceiling is at
a pretty high level, but it's still not a coed pad."
Still, some women preferred to describe the situation as
the glass being half-full, and not half empty. McGrath, who came to MTV from Conde Nast
Publications Ltd. in the 1980s, said that starting back then, "cable was full of
women in postitions not usually held by women. As a new industry, considered 'B-plus' by
broadcasters, cable didn't have built-in biases against women."
Laybourne pointed out that the one-dozen or so women
running cable networks are in charge of programming services ranked in the top 25, in
terms of distribution. Those include McEnroe, general manager Cyma Zarghami at Nickelodeon
and general manager Brooke Bailey Johnson at A&E Network. At Discovery Communications
Inc., president and chief operating officer Judith McHale oversees a huge stable of
networks, anchored by Discovery Channel.
And the next generation of women executives below president
and general managers senior vice presidents of programming, for example are
chock-full of women, McGrath said.
She noted that Eileen Katz, as senior vice president of
programming for Comedy Central, is behind one of the hottest shows not only on cable, but
on television, in general: South Park.
"These are the women who will step up to those top
jobs, who are being groomed," McGrath said. "They are there. It is up to us to
make sure that they get the opportunity."
The battery of top programming executives at cable networks
also includes Abbe Raven at The History Channel, Fran Shea at E! Entertainment Television
and Dawn Tarnofsky at Lifetime.