BBC pay gap: 42 of the BBC's top women demand action

The women of the BBC demand action on the pay gap.

The women of the BBC now have proof of what they had suspected: they are paid vastly less than their male colleagues.

It was confirmed when the public broadcaster released the salaries of its top 96 stars last week in its annual report. This information was previously held secret, but the British government compelled disclosure.

It lifts the lid on what is opaque in most organisations: who earns what.

The radio presenter Chris Evans is the highest paid male who earns a cool £2.2 million pounds a year. This is more than four times the pay of the highest-paid female Claudia Winkleman, who earns between £450,000 and £499,000 annually.

Of the 14 top paid presenters, 12 are men. Two thirds of the best paid presenters are male and white.

Coincidence? Or entrenched discrimination bathed in sunlight?

Forty-two of the BBC’s most senior women have written an open letter to the director general, Tony Hall, demanding action to address the gap.

The letter was published in the Sunday Times and reproduced by several other outlets.

“You have said that you will ‘sort’ the gender pay gap by 2020, but the BBC has known about the pay disparity for years. We all want to go on the record to call upon you to act now,” the letter reads.

The fact the salaries these women earn are generous and well above the national average does not cancel out the obvious discrepancy, as some have attempted to argue.

These women have acknowledged that they are well remunerated but that is not the point. The point is equity, or lack thereof.

Framing the BBC’s top female presenters as greedy is mightily disingenuous. The issue, revealed by the figures, is exactly as the British PM Theresa May articulated.

“We’ve seen the way the BBC is paying women less for doing the same job,” May told LBC radio. “What’s important is that the BBC looks at the question of paying men and women the same for doing the same job.”

Equal pay has been legislated in the United Kingdom since 1970. It is illegal to pay men and women differently for the same work.

But it raises a question anyone who ever has studied law will recognise: if a law isn’t enforced, does it even exist?

When it comes to the pay discrepancy between men and women, the legislation has hardly been effective.  And Britain’s isn’t alone.  Australia has had equal pay legislation since 1975 and yet?

The pay gap stubbornly persists

And this isn’t a hunch: it is steeped in the numbers. The details about what the BBC’s top stars make, confirms this.

It takes a fairly flimsy grip on logic to look at those numbers and argue that the pay gap is a figment of angry womens’ imaginations.

The women of the BBC are now able to fight for equality from a position of strength. They have the numbers to make their case.

Very few of us will ever be in that position. Which is why the case for transparency around pay is so very compelling.

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