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Making The Case For Equal Pay, A Flutist Enters Mediation With The BSO

Elizabeth Rowe performs with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 2016. (Courtesy Winslow Townson/BSO)MoreCloseclosemore
Elizabeth Rowe performs with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 2016. (Courtesy Winslow Townson/BSO)

The Boston Symphony Orchestra and its principal flutist, Elizabeth Rowe, are reportedly trying to resolve Rowe’s gender discrimination lawsuit outside of the courts. The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that the parties had entered mediation and hoped to resolve the dispute this week. If no agreement can be reached, the case will go to court.

Rowe sued the BSO in July claiming that the pay disparity between herself and the BSO’s principal oboist, John Ferrillo, was in violation of the Massachusetts Equal Pay Law. The lawsuit is among the first filed under an updated version of the law that went into effect this summer.

At the time, Rowe, who joined the BSO in 2004, was making about 75 percent of Ferrillo’s annual salary, which was $286,621, according to the BSO’s 2016 tax filings. The lawsuit asked for more than $200,000 in back pay.

Rowe’s lawyer, Elizabeth A. Rodgers, declined to comment on the mediation process. The BSO would not comment on the ongoing mediation, but provided a short written statement that read, in part, “Compensation policies for principal musicians in leading orchestras are complex and by nature allow for many variables, though gender has never been one of those factors.”

In a statement to the Washington Post, the BSO said that the discrepancy between Rowe’s and Ferrillo’s salaries was due to the principal oboist having a larger leadership role than the principal flutist, and that a scarcity of top-notch oboists meant that they had greater negotiating power.

But Rowe’s lawsuit alleges that her role in the orchestra is equal to that of Ferrillo’s, citing the fact that the BSO has featured her as a soloist more times than any other principal musician and that the orchestra frequently highlights her in its marketing materials. Her suit also claims that she repeatedly tried to negotiate an equal salary to Ferrillo, but was ignored, and that she was retaliated against on at least one occasion.

In August, the BSO raised Rowe’s salary to $250,149, narrowing the difference with Ferrillo’s salary from $70,497 to $64,451, according to the Washington Post. In an email to Rowe, the BSO said that the raise was “the result of our normal annual salary review process and not as a result of your lawsuit.”

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Amelia Mason Twitter Arts And Culture Reporter
Amelia Mason is an arts and culture reporter and critic for The ARTery, WBUR's arts and culture team. She covers everything from fine art to television to the inner workings of the Boston music scene.

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