Trust me when I tell you this: no one becomes a journalist for the money.
I made $18,000 a year as a reporter at a very small television station in Greenville, Mississippi—it was my first job in TV, and this was the early 2000’s, so it wasn’t that long ago. But despite the low pay, that first job was a the beginning of me realizing my worth as a worker and a woman.
I slowly earned more as I moved to larger cities with bigger television stations, but it wasn’t until I landed a job as a news anchor and reporter in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, that I got my first taste of having to fight for my worth—on paper.
Let me put on my reporter hat for a brief moment.
According to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, on average, women earn 82 cents for every dollar that a man earns. Oh, how I wish I had that information when I was called into my boss’ office to talk about my next contract. The first thing he said to me was that I was already overpaid so there would not be much of a salary increase in my new contract offer. Can you believe telling someone that they make too much money? Am I worth less money? I could not wait to tell my agent about the offer that was about to hit her inbox because if you really take a look at this picture, I was most likely making a fraction of what the men around me earned. So, were they worth more than me?
The whole thing was stressful and disappointing because I was not ready to leave Pittsburgh just yet. I knew I was great at my job and a valuable asset to the television station—and they wanted me to stay. But guess what? I left. It was one of the best career decisions that I’ve ever made. My next job was with CBS News and I got to travel the country and the world telling stories.
It’s funny when I think back to that moment in the office because at the time, it didn’t even dawn on me that I was being treated differently because I am a woman. I really only left because I was annoyed at the offer and I wanted more money! I convinced myself that it was some kind of negotiation tactic, but you know how the saying goes: as you get older, you get wiser. I know now exactly what happened. He wasn’t the last man to try to undervalue my work but over the years I learned that as a woman of color, I have to always be a step ahead, especially when it comes to negotiations.
The working world is tough, especially for women, and we must advocate for each other. We can’t be afraid to share notes, share stories and give advice. More importantly, I learned that I have to be more assertive when it comes to me—I will always be my best advocate. I kick myself for not saying something back in Pittsburgh. The Danielle of today would have no problem using her voice and saying exactly how she feels.
I am happy the days of hardly making ends meet in Mississippi are over, but I will always be grateful for that experience. Remember what I said about women advocating for each other? It was a Black woman who plucked me out of a cozy office job and hired me for that first TV job in Mississippi. She got my foot in the door and helped me start a successful broadcast career. And let me tell you what the difference was when it came time to talk money—she told me that all she had was $18,000 to pay me, but that if I stuck with it, the “paper” would catch up to my worth.Leave a Comment