Sandi Toksvig, a prominent British comedian, writer, and political activist, has voiced “that women are being ‘marginalised’ on television panel shows that often edit out their contributions.”
The host of popular panel show QI, Toksvig told the Radio Times that she tried to make it “a comfortable place for women.”
But the fight hasn’t been easy. Toksvig noted that, “There are panel shows that struggle to get women on, and that’s because the women feel marginalised and stupid and in the edit are often seen just laughing at the boys and not saying anything at all even though I know for a fact in the recording they were clever.”
Making the issue even worse is the growing pay gap within the island nation. The entertainment industry is particularly susceptible to the problem and is a key concern of Toksvig’s.
Stephen Fry served as the host of the popular show, QI, from 2003 to 2015. Following the 18th season, Fry opted to leave the show to focus on other work. Toksvig was hired to fill his shoes and has done so since early 2016. She told BBC 5 Live in a 2016 interview that her pay was not an issue.
“I wasn’t concerned about that because it is done through an agent and I am paid by an independent production company, and not the BBC, anyway.”
But after several years of working on the show, she has decided to speak up.
In a conference in Kettering, England, Toksvig told the Women’s Equality party that she is paid 40% of what the previous host received. The party, which she helped co-found with Catherine Mayer in 2015, seeks to unite British citizens of all kinds, “in the shared determination to see women enjoy the same rights and opportunities as men – so that all can flourish.”
She went on to say that women are questioned about the pay gap because of “the wider context of women generally being underpaid.” When the question came forward, she prefaced her answer by saying, “the issues with equal pay and the gender pay gap cut right across the media and all industries and all areas of life.”
Toksvig emphasized that the issue was by no means personal: “Until now I had held back from talking about this because this is not about me. However, the lack of transparency around pay is a big part of the problem and I hope that [by] being open, I can support women whose work is undervalued.”
While it may be that Stephen Fry is a much larger and well-recognized name and was therefore able to bring in more viewers, previous reports out of the BBC point to a disheartening trend in which male entertainers regularly earn two to four times more than their female counterparts.
In the end, Toksvig will fight the good fight with a bit of laughter.
“I know now that there are different ways to fight for things you believe in… I’ve learnt that making people laugh is a good thing. Life is full of difficulties and when you hear an audience sobbing with laughter, you know in that moment they’ve forgotten their worries.”
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