A leading female flautist is suing the Boston Symphony Orchestra because she is paid around $65,000 less than its male principal oboist.
Elizabeth Rowe, who became the orchestra’s principal flautist in 2004, is seeking $200,000 in back pay after years of privately appealing for a salary increase.
John Ferrillo, the orchestra’s principal oboist, is paid around $314,000, according to the organisation’s tax filings, while Ms Rowe is paid around $250,000.
The 44-year-old is arguing that the pair should be paid the same salary and that her gender is the reason for the disparity.
Her lawsuit is the first against an orchestra to test Massachusetts new equal pay law and its outcome could have implications for women across the US.
“You look at the number of women that graduate from conservatories and then you look at the number of women in the top leadership positions in orchestras, and it’s not 50-50 still,” the 44-year-old told the Washington Post.
"Women need to see equality, and they need to see fairness in order to believe that that’s possible.”
The Boston’s orchestra, one of the most prestigious in the US, has defended its pay structure in its court filing, arguing that Mr Ferrillo is paid more because the oboe is harder to play.
The orchestra added that there is a larger pool of flautists, meaning oboists had more leverage when it came to salary negotiations.
The orchestra has also noted that Ms Rowe is paid more than nine other principals, of which only one, harpist Jessica Zhou, is a woman.
The orchestra said it would not be commenting on the lawsuit but told The Telegraph: "Though compensation policies for principal musicians are complex and by nature allow for many variables, gender is not one of those factors in the hiring and compensation processes at the Boston Symphony Orchestra."
Mr Ferillo, 63, has voiced his support for Ms Rowe, telling the Washington Post she was his "equal" partner. “Is [the oboe] difficult? Yes, it is,” he said.
"Is the flute difficult? Ever looked at a flute part? They’ve got to play a million notes. The technical standards are astounding. Every instrument has its own private hell.”
Ms Rowe and the orchestra will go through a mediation session this week aimed at settling the issue before it goes to court.