Big Three Networks Herald New White House Women's Report

ABC and NBC touted the Obama administration's new report on women by leading their evening news shows with it on Tuesday. Diane Sawyer gushed over the "huge new report," while NBC's Savannah Guthrie trumpeted the "first comprehensive White House report on women since...Kennedy asked Eleanor Roosevelt to lead a study." CBS also highlighted the report on Evening News and on The Early Show the next day.

NBC's Brian Williams, during his introduction to correspondent Savannah Guthrie's report, proclaimed how "the White House reported some new numbers today about women in this country, and while, in many ways, women continue to pass men by, an old problem is just as bad, just as serious, and it continues to hold women back economically." After noting the gains by women in terms of college attendance, Williams continued that the problem was "the pay gap in the workplace, and that hasn't changed."

Guthrie began with her Eleanor Roosevelt line, and continued that the report "paints a portrait of a modern woman- less June Cleaver, more Liz Lemon" (Tina Fey's character from "30 Rock"). She then spouted some of the figures from the Obama administration document:

GUTHRIE: Pulling together data from across federal agencies, the Obama administration report finds women have eliminated the gender gap in education- now, just as likely as men to have a college degree. Young women actually are more likely to have a degree, reversing the norm of 40 years ago. After booming for decades, the rate of women entering the labor force has now tapered off: about 61% of women work. But the report says women are still paid about 75% of what their male counterparts are paid.

WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISOR VALERIE JARRETT: It's one thing to know something intuitively. It's very different to have the evidence that actually backs it up. This report gives us that evidence.

Instead of looking into why this may be, the NBC correspondent highlighted the outraged reactions from two unidentified women they interviewed on the street.

By contrast, ABC's Jake Tapper offered some possible explanations to the pay disparity during his report on World News, even with Sawyer's triumphal introduction:

Diane Sawyer, ABC Anchor | NewsBusters.orgSAWYER: The last time that it's happened in America, it was 1963, and John Kennedy was in the White House. We got answers to some direct questions about women in the United States: What are their paychecks, their opportunities and their obstacles? Well, now, tonight, almost 50 years later, those questions have finally been asked and answered once again, a huge new report on American women, where gains have been made, where ground has been lost....

TAPPER (voice-over): Each day, 72 million women in the U.S. get up and either head to work or look for work. They're a group of women who are better educated than ever before. But they still make less than their male counterparts, on average, only 80% of what a man makes....Sometimes it's discrimination, but there are other factors, as well, behind pay inequity.

WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISOR VALERIE JARRETT: Well, one reason is that they're not going into the kinds of fields that are high-income producing. And so, the President, since early on in the administration, has had an effort to encourage women and girls to go into science and technology and engineering [and] math.

TAPPER: We sat down this afternoon with three professional women to talk about the fact that women still make less than their male counterparts.

CAROL WATERS, INTERNATIONAL TECHNOLOGY CONSULTANT: Something that I've seen is, women don't know- or they're unsure of how to actively advocate and negotiate a salary.

TAPPER: That is also a key reason for the disparity, according to ABC News workplace contributor Tory Johnson-

TORY JOHNSON, ABC NEWS GMA WORKPLACE CONTRIBUTOR: We have to recognize that even if we're uncomfortable, we have to speak up and negotiate for what we want....

TAPPER: Another reason for pay inequity: women customarily take on more family responsibilities, caring not only for children, but these days, elderly parents, thus limiting their availability to work for pay.

After Tapper's report, Sawyer turned to 20/20 anchor Elizabeth Vargas, who highlighted "hero companies" such as Google and Johnson & Johnson that "go above and beyond" for women.

CBS's Katie Couric stuck with the White House's main figures during her report near the end of Evening:

COURIC (voice-over): They work hard for the money, but women still are not getting paid as much as men. That's among the findings in today's report. Women earn 80% of what their male counterparts make, up from 62% in 1979. But women now account for 51% of those in management positions and professional jobs. That's partially due to the increase in women earning college degrees. Thirty-six percent of them did in 2009, compared to 11% in 1970, and the report projects women will account for nearly two-thirds of all American undergraduates by 2019.

SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISOR VALEIRE JARRETT: We need to make sure that as a society, we are adapting to the new changes that affect women, since it's half of our population.

Note how all three networks played sound bites from Valerie Jarrett.

The following morning, Early Show anchor Erica Hill brought on Lucy Danziger of Self magazine and "business and career consultant" Ronna Lichtenberg to discuss the White House report. The three took a similar path as Couric:

HILL: In honor of women's history month, the White House released a comprehensive report on women in America. It shows where women have made tremendous gains, and areas where we still lag behind. Here's an example: young women are now more likely than young men to have a college degree. But, whatever their level of education, women earn only about 75 cents for every dollar a man earns. Why is that?  Joining us this morning for a closer look are Lucy Danziger, who's editor in chief of Self magazine and business and career consultant Ronna Lichtenberg. Good to have you both with us this morning.

LUCY DANZIGER: Thanks.

HILL: I feel like that number keeps coming up. The disparity in pay. And we want to take a little bit closer look at it. Because it also has a lot to do, it turns out, with race. If we look at it, Asian women make about 95 – the pay gap is about 95%. White women, 82%. And then we see a huge dip, African-American women, 71%. Hispanic women, 62%. We're making more than ever. But there's still this gap. Why?

DANZIGER: Well, I mean, we'd say you have to value yourself, right? That for most women, talking about money may be an uncomfortable place. But think of it in terms of time. That missing quarter doesn't sound like a lot. But if your future employer said, 'Oh, by the way you're going to have to work ten hours while your male colleagues are going to work eight,' then you might say, 'Well that's not fair.' Right? Those two extra hours are the same 25% that we're missing in our paycheck. Those are two hours you could spend taking care of yourself, your family, having leisure.


HILL: Right. So then, Ronna, how do you change that?

RONNA LICHTENBERG: I see it a little different from Lucy.

HILL: Okay.

LICHTENBERG: Which is that, we're past the days of overt discrimination, right?

HILL: Yeah.

LICHTENBERG: There are not ads anymore that say we want a woman or we want a man or we're going to pay you less. Publicly held companies cannot do that. And even the soft discrimination is much better than it was. So that number also reflects choices that women are making about what they study, what to careers they're going after, and also what they're doing at work. Are they there five days a week? Are they taking lots of time off? So it's not the old-fashioned head-to-head, 'You're a guy so you're going to make more than me.'

— Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center