Pay, Diversity and Retention at The Post
A diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace is key to The Washington Post’s success as an organization. While the company has made progress over the past few years in implementing several diversity and inclusion initiatives, there is still work to do.
The Guild offers the following recommendations, which will be formal proposals we bring to bargaining this spring.
- Set aside a pool of funds, in addition to the pool for merit raises, that is used exclusively to correct pay disparities thoroughly outlined in the report. Beyond the annual Guild-negotiated cost-of-living raise, employees currently have a few opportunities to receive more money: when they get a promotion, a competing job offer or a performance-based merit raise. Pay increases during merit raise season are categorized as either "merit" raises or "market adjustment" raises. According to the company, a raise of less than 5 percent is considered a "merit" raise and a raise of more than 5 percent is considered a "market adjustment" raise. The company said it uses "market adjustment" raises during merit season to both reward job performance and adjust an employee's income if they are underpaid compared to their colleagues. While the Guild is heartened to see the company working to identify and correct pay disparities, we believe this current system needs reform. The company should not conflate equity adjustments based on fairness with merit raises based on performance. Instead, the Guild asks the company to proactively address pay inequity outside merit raise season, creating a quarterly process for managers and Human Resources to scrutinize and fix pay inequity. When someone is being underpaid over a span of years, and The Post’s only method for catching them up is smaller, piecemeal raises only during merit season, then that worker will still ultimately lose wages over time. We understand that currently, the company uses merit raise season as a vehicle to address pay inequity because managers and Human Resources are already talking about compensation. But company convenience should not be prioritized over workers’ financial fairness and security. If The Post takes seriously its promise to foster a fair and equitable workplace, it must invest the energy and money into addressing pay disparities immediately. Managers should also be encouraged, if not outright required, to be transparent about when an employee is receiving a “market adjustment” raise versus a true “merit” raise.
- The Post should strengthen and better formalize the salary review process. This process — which the Guild negotiated for in its last contract — is intended as a mechanism to empower employees to understand how much they are being paid in relation to their co-workers, ideally providing the groundwork for salary negotiation conversations with their direct managers. Currently, only two Post employees conduct salary reviews for the entire company. We recommend that more Post employees — Guild members and managers alike — be trained on the salary review process to ensure reviews are completed in a reasonable time frame. It should be made clear in new employee onboarding and orientation that employees may request a salary review at any time. We also recommend that the organization conduct salary reviews for all employees hired in the past five years, and share those reviews with each worker. Further, because of the significant pay disparities between Black employees and their peers, the Guild’s Black Caucus urges the company to actively offer and prioritize salary reviews that Black employees can either accept or decline. Employees who go through the salary review process should also have the option of inviting a Guild representative to accompany them. We believe these enhancements to the salary review process can be accomplished in a reasonable time frame and would signal that the company values empowering its employees to have these conversations.
- The Post should allow direct managers to know how much their reports make. Currently, many direct managers do not know this information, despite being in the best position to negotiate raises on their reports’ behalf. Empowering direct managers to look out for pay disparities on their teams will help correct them, taking some of the burden away from HR and higher-level managers. Creating pay equity at The Post requires a team effort at all levels of the company.
- The Post should remove questions about desired salary during the hiring process, both from the paper application and the in-person interview. The Post currently requires prospective applicants to list their desired salary during the application process. We believe the company should remove these questions entirely from the application and interview process. These questions often serve to perpetuate gender pay gaps and have already been banned in California and New York City. The Post should ensure that pay disparities do not begin during the hiring process. Furthermore, the company should include a salary range for all job postings to promote transparency and empower applicants. This not only protects incoming employees so that they are on equal footing with their peers, but also ensures that The Post inherits fewer inequities that might have begun at other institutions.
- The Post should reevaluate and improve pay, outcomes and pipelines for editorial aides and interns. Editorial aide positions often staff the company with young people of color who remain trapped in low-paying jobs with little room for growth. Intern pay has not been increased for years. Both of these positions remain underpaid relative to cost of living, and pay for both positions should be increased at least in line with cost of living.
- The company should hire a third-party consultant to conduct an annual pay study and share the results with Post employees, alongside its new annual demographic report. We are encouraged that The Post has been releasing this demographic report to the public, part of a series of commitments the company made in recent years to promote transparency and accountability around diversity efforts. We believe the company should also commit to conducting a public-facing pay and retention analysis of its own. This pay study should include every employee, not just Guild-covered workers, to provide the most comprehensive picture of pay, diversity and retention within the organization.
- Expand mentorship and training pipelines. The Guild welcomes the company’s addition of 41 editing roles to develop internal talent and diversify the editing ranks, and urges The Post to make these career pathways transparent and equitable. We also applaud the company’s Opportunity Year and internal mentorship programs, which were created following the Guild’s recommendations in the summer of 2020. These two programs should be expanded to accept more participants, and in preparation for the Opportunity Year, managers and editors supervising the chosen fellows should receive guidance to structure the year most effectively. Without that structure, some participants have felt adrift during the experience and let down by the lack of relevant opportunities at the end of their Opportunity Year. Also, The Post should create a training program for internal employees of color who want to become managers or editors. It is not enough to build pipelines to only entry-level positions at The Post; we need people of color in management positions, shaping decisions and fostering a diverse array of talent.
- Commit to ensuring that the finalists brought in for interviews include at least one candidate from an underrepresented background. This must be mandatory for leadership positions. The Post must do more to recruit and retain employees from minority backgrounds (Black, Hispanic or Latino, Asian and Native American), as these are groups The Post struggles to recruit and retain, according to the 2021 demographic report.
- The Post should hire an equity, diversity and inclusion consultant and form a diversity committee. After the summer of 2020, The Post hired senior positions for equity, diversity and inclusion in both the newsroom and HR, and the company has created five diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) action groups coordinated through the Maynard Institute. But to the Guild’s knowledge, The Post has not commissioned an external audit regarding these issues or created an inclusive internal committee with a clear plan for creating a more diverse and equitable workplace. An external consultant could help the company establish goal posts and draft initiatives, as well as act as an accountability arm. A company-wide diversity committee — made up of managers and workers alike — would work closely with this consultant to implement change. This committee should have a dedicated budget and access to data needed to program and review diversity, retention and pay equity projects. One collaborative project could be creating guidelines for inclusive journalism, similar to a guide published by the Seattle Times diversity committee.
- Convene a management-labor working group to overhaul the social media policy, a necessary change mentioned by The Post’s executive editor, Sally Buzbee, during a recent company-wide town hall. The new policy should uphold fact, truth and transparency as the standards for social media and not be enforced punitively and arbitrarily across hundreds of workers by a handful of managers.
- Continue regular, newsroom-wide collaborative discussions on The Post’s style guide to provide guidelines for reporting on race, gender and other aspects of identity. The Post has made recent progress in this area, but work remains on updating style guidance on sexuality and gender identity, such as the entry for “gay, lesbian, LGBT, LGBTQ,” which still allows use of the plural noun “gays.” This conversation should extend to the language we use while writing about policing, crime, incarceration, homelessness and substance abuse — and the way our words and framing can perpetuate harmful stereotypes and produce inaccurate journalism.
- Reshape our coverage to better reach diverse audiences that the company itself has identified as a neglected and untapped base of potential subscribers. Often, our framing and selection of stories is designed mostly with a predominantly White readership in mind at the expense of communities of color. For example, our local coverage must capture the nuance and complexity, in particular, of the Black community in the DMV region.
- Work with employees to design an equitable remote-work policy. The Guild is working on solutions for a remote-work policy that would allow The Post to recruit and retain a more diverse set of employees. We ask that the company give employees a seat at the table at discussions involving these decisions, as we feel The Post’s process has been unnecessarily opaque.