The flutist who sued the Boston Symphony Orchestra for equal pay
Elizabeth Rowe sued under the new Massachusetts Equal Pay Law, arguing that she should receive the same compensation as her fellow male performers.
Everyone knows about the gender pay gap: Women, on average, earn 20 percent less than men. Unfortunately not everyone is willing to do something about it.
Elizabeth Rowe is trying. In July, the principal flutist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra filed a lawsuit under the Massachusetts Equal Pay Law, claiming the BSO discriminated against her by paying her substantially less than men who have comparable jobs in the orchestra.
Rowe’s complaint — among the first filed under the new law — contends she’s paid 25 percent less than principal oboist John Ferrillo, a fellow woodwind performer, and, to varying degrees, less than four other comparable musicians in the orchestra — the principal viola, trumpet, timpani, and horn players — all of whom are men. Rowe’s no slouch: She won a highly competitive audition to earn her distinguished post at the BSO in 2004.
The BSO has denied the allegation and asked that Rowe’s complaint be dismissed. But even if the orchestra’s higher-ups don’t have her back, Rowe’s colleagues do. Ferrillo, for one, told the Globe: “I consider Elizabeth to be my peer and equal, at least as worthy of the compensation that I receive as I am.”
It’s too soon to say if her suit will lead to a crescendo of similar complaints. The classical music world has been slow to treat men and women equally — it wasn’t until 1980 that a top US orchestra had even 10 percent female performers. But it’s not hard to imagine that a victory here could lead to more women joining Rowe’s push for parity.