Why Hoda Kotb's Today Show Salary Makes So Many Women Uneasy

Photo: Courtesy of NBC.
NBC announced yesterday that Hoda Kotb will replace Matt Lauer as co-anchor of the 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. slot on the The Today Show, marking the first time in history that the program will be led by female hosts.
Kotb, who will continue to host the 10 a.m. Today slot with Kathy Lee Gifford, first joined Savannah Guthrie after Lauer was fired for sexual misconduct. CNN reports that Today's 7 a.m. viewership under Guthrie and Kotb has actually increased, at least in the short-term, securing the nearly $500 million in ad revenue the show produces annually. By all appearances, Kotb has the full support of network executives.
"Over the past several weeks, Hoda has seamlessly stepped into the co-anchor role alongside Savannah, and the two have quickly hit the ground running," NBC News chairman Andy Lack wrote in a memo to staff after the announcement. "They have an undeniable connection with each other and most importantly, with viewers, a hallmark of Today." Lauer also cosigned the appointment in private, sending a congratulatory text to Kotb. Though after Kotb's salary was revealed — reportedly $5 million to $7 million — some people might wonder if he should have sent her some of his old paycheck, too.
At the time of his firing, Lauer earned $20 million to $25 million per year, obviously dwarfing Kotb's reported compensation. That isn't so surprising: Lauer was seen as the star of Today, and was known to be "a fierce and successful negotiator," with decades of experience at NBC. Kotb isn't a consolation prize for Today and she also has a lengthy tenure at NBC; however, as my colleague Rebecca Farley puts it, Kotb may be a valuable anchor but she has held far less sway than Lauer did.
Sitting in the spot beside Kotb, Guthrie earns $7 million, "Page Six" alleges, setting the female cohosts on a similar pay level. An anonymous source told The Hollywood Reporter that "Hoda isn't complaining about the money" since she has landed her dream job; but whether her compensation is comparable to Lauer's is harder to discern. We don't know how NBC arrived at the number for Kotb; we do know that it is comparable to Guthrie's. And, these two things add up to highlight a problem with the way women are compensated. Case in point, THR source noted that, "the figures underline the huge wage disparity at NBC News."
Last year, Tech LadyMafia and Call Your Girlfriend podcast founder Aminatou Sow explained that one way for women to close the gender pay gap in individual fields is to "stop asking other women what they make, and ask the men in your industry what they make."
The problem is that murkiness over salary history — including being told by companies that you'll be fired for discussing it with coworkers, or being forced to negotiate based on unfair past earnings — can make knowing what your earnings should be incredibly difficult. Women can negotiate based on what they know other women make, but who can say if those numbers are in the correct range at all?
Being paid based on salary history does seem to have worked out for at least one female host at NBC: Megyn Kelly reportedly earns $15 million to $20 million per year hosting the 9 a.m. hour of Today. That's a very impressive figure, especially considering her show's rocky start. (One that necessitated its own Hoda-cameo, and led to the dance that launched a thousand cringes.) Kelly earned $15 million in her last year at Fox, according to The Wall Street Journal, and the scandal-beleaguered network made her a $20 million counter offer before she left.
Perhaps Kotb's salary is being pegged to Guthrie's. That may be fair on some level (noting again, that the former is being asked to anchor two shows for now), but it may not be fair overall. Equality isn't only about women being compensated fairly compared to other women, but about compensation as a whole. Just ask the female presenters at BBC News. Or former E! host Catt Sadler, who left the NBCUniversal program after learning that her cohost was paid twice her salary for years.
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