Star Flutist Settles Pay Equity Suit Against Boston Symphony
Elizabeth Rowe, the principal flutist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, has settled her pay discrimination lawsuit against the ensemble, bringing to an end a case that sparked international conversation about gender bias in classical music.
In her suit, filed last July, Ms. Rowe claimed that her compensation was only about 75 percent that of her closest comparable colleague, the orchestra’s principal oboist, who is a man. It was one of the first complaints filed under a new law in Massachusetts that requires equal pay for “comparable work.”
Ms. Rowe, who joined the orchestra in 2004, had sought more than $200,000 in unpaid wages. The amount of the settlement, which was reached on Feb. 14, was not disclosed.
In a joint statement both parties said they were “satisfied with the result,” which included a pledge that the orchestra would “continue to collaborate with musicians, staff and other leaders in the field to accelerate the process of achieving gender parity.”
The statement also paid tribute to Doriot Anthony Dwyer, a former principal flutist for the orchestra and “trailblazer” who joined the Boston Symphony in 1952, the same year that it became the first American orchestra, according to the statement, to use blind auditions, in which players are hidden behind a screen.
Ms. Dwyer, now 96, was one of the first woman to hold a principal chair in a major orchestra — “a suitable achievement for a musician who traces her genealogy (and middle name) back to the suffragist Susan B. Anthony,” The New York Times wrote in 1982.
Ms. Rowe and the orchestra pledged to build on the spirit behind practices like blind auditions, which have helped markedly increase the percentage of women in orchestras.
“In the same spirit of improvement and innovation it demonstrated more than six decades ago, the orchestra will continue to collaborate with musicians, staff, and other leaders in the field to accelerate the process of achieving gender parity,” the statement said. “The B.S.O. and Elizabeth Rowe look forward to continuing their shared commitment to artistic excellence at the highest level.”
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