“Dear BBC audience, my name is Carrie Gracie and I have been a BBC journalist for three decades. With great regret, I have left my post as China editor to speak out publicly on a crisis of trust at the BBC. The BBC belongs to you, the license 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.”
Four years ago, Gracie accepted a job offer by the BBC to serve as an editor in China, after previously working in the UK with the network. Being a China specialist, fluent in Mandarin, and having 30 years of experience working with the BBC, she was an obvious candidate for the position. However, this opportunity required her to leave two teenage children in the UK and relocate to Beijing, where she could experience “surveillance, police harassment and official intimidation.”
After stressing to her bosses that equal pay was essential for her to take the position, Gracie took the job under the impression that her pleas had been heard and she was going to be compensated as much as her male counterparts. She was mistaken.
“Despite the BBC’s public insistence that my appointment demonstrated its commitment to gender equality, and despite my own insistence that equality was a condition of taking up the post, my managers had yet again judged that women’s work was worth much less than men’s,” she said in the open letter announcing her resignation, which was published the first week of January.
A BBC spokeswoman announced that after a salary audit was completed by an independent judge, “no systemic discrimination against women” was found and “[the BBC is] performing considerably better than many” in regards to the gender pay figures of other companies.
Gracie expressed in her letter that she does not believe this audit included the women with the biggest pay gaps, and that over 200 BBC women have complained about pay discrimination, only to be told that they are wrong in thinking that such a problem exists at the BBC.
For Gracie, it isn’t about the money. It never has been about the money. It is about being paid equally for equal work. Men are earning more money at the BBC performing the same jobs as women. This is pay discrimination and it is illegal. The BBC offered to raise Gracie’s salary £45,000 (from £135,000 to £180,000), but Gracie refused.
“I was not interested in more money. I was interested in equality. I kept saying to my managers that I didn’t need more money, I just needed to be equal and that can be done in a variety of ways.”
Of course, two obvious solutions are to either decrease the salary of the men or increase the salary of the women. There are strategies that can be put in place to balance pay, like not allowing pay negotiations or basing salaries on the market rate for a job rather than an employee’s last salary.
“The sooner the BBC deals with this problem and puts in place a better structure for the future, the sooner that some women…will be prepared to forgive some of the problems of the past.”
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