BBC's China editor resigns in protest over gender pay gap. The story that reignited the debate

10.01.2018 02:23

One of the most senior journalists at the BBC has resigned from her post because of the gender pay gap at the corporation, accusing it of a “secretive and illegal” pay culture.

In a significant escalation of the pay row at the BBC, Carrie Gracie said she was resigning from her position as China editor while accusing the corporation of breaking equality laws and saying she did not trust management to deal with the problem.

Gracie said there was a “crisis of trust” at the BBC and that it was “not living up to its stated values of trust, honesty and accountability”Gracie has worked for the BBC for 30 years and is scheduled to be a co-presenter of the Today programme on Radio 4 on Monday morning. She is widely regarded as one of the BBC’s most talented journalists. Gracie said she wanted to return to her old post in the BBC newsroom “where I expect to be paid equally”.

A host of leading BBC presenters, including Clare Balding, Kirsty Wark and Sarah Montague, joined the #IStandWithCarrie hashtag on social media to support her stance.

The gender pay row at the BBC erupted last summer when it published a list of its top-earning on-air stars, which revealed that just a third were women and the top seven were all men. This led to more than 40 of its highest-profile female presenters, including Balding, Fiona Bruce and Emily Maitlis, to publicly call for change through a letter to director general Tony Hall.

The furore prompted the BBC to review its pay structure, with the corporation finding that men are being paid 9.3% more than women at the broadcaster on average and that nearly 500 employees may be getting paid less than colleagues in a similar role simply because of their gender. However, senior women at the BBC, including Jane Garvey, the presenter of Women’s Hour on Radio 4, openly questioned the validity of the report

In an open letter to BBC licence fee payers, which was first reported by BuzzFeed, Gracie criticised the broadcaster for the gender pay gap and its efforts to eradicate it.

“The BBC belongs to you, the licence fee payer. I believe you have a right to know that it is breaking equality law and resisting pressure for a fair and transparent pay structure,” she said. “On pay, the BBC is not living up to its stated values of trust, honesty and accountability.

Gracie said that over the past four years the BBC has had four international editors – two men and two women – and the men earned at last 50% more than the women. She said the BBC had offered a pay rise but this was “far short” of equality with her male peers and the broadcaster had failed to justify the difference.

“The BBC must admit the problem, apologise and set in place an equal, fair and transparent pay structure,” she said.

“To avoid wasting your licence fee on an unwinnable court fight against female staff, the BBC should immediately agree to independent arbitration to settle individual cases.

“Patience and goodwill are running out. In the six months since July’s revelations, the BBC has attempted a botched solution based on divide and rule. It has offered some women pay ‘revisions’ which do not guarantee equality, while locking down other women in a protracted complaints process.”

The BBC’s chief international correspondent, Lyse Doucet, called the letter “brave and brilliant” and Jane Garvey, presenter of BBC’s Woman’s Hour, tweeted: “As we’ve said from the start: we are privileged women. We must use that privilege to ensure equal pay becomes a reality for all.”

This is a letter to everyone who loves and values the BBC from one of its finest journalists. @BBCCarrie has resigned as China editor. Please read and retweet. It’s time for #equalpay  #bbcwomen #IStandWithCarrie 

Sophie Walker, leader of the Women’s Equality party, said Gracie had taken “a courageous stand” and that the BBC should be “ashamed”.

She said: “The BBC cynically manipulated its equal pay audit in an attempt to hide its discrimination against women such as Carrie. Carrie has shone a light on the BBC’s treatment of women and highlighted the urgent need for pay legislation that calls dishonest work practices to account.

“Equality legislation has consistently failed to stamp out discrimination. It must now be redesigned so businesses cannot hide discriminatory practices.”

In response, a BBC spokesperson said: “Fairness in pay is vital. A significant number of organisations have now published their gender pay figures showing that we are performing considerably better than many and are well below the national average. Alongside that, we have already conducted a independent judge-led audit of pay for rank and file staff which showed ‘no systemic discrimination against women’.

“A separate report for on-air staff will be published in the not too distant future.”

Originally published in the Guardian

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