Two weeks ago, one of the BBC’s most senior international journalists, Carrie Gracie, resigned from her position in protest of pay inequality at the network. In her open letter to BBC viewers, she said that her former employer “is breaking equality law and resisting pressure for a fair and transparent pay structure.” She added that she doesn’t believe she deserves to be paid more, she just wants the BBC to “abide by the law and value men and women equally.”
Gracie is just the highest-profile of about 200 women protesting the network’s unfair pay structure which was exposed in a report released by the company last July. The BBC defended themselves at the time, saying that there was an “independent judge-led audit of pay for rank and file staff which showed ‘no systemic discrimination against women'” and that they would be having the salaries of on-air staff investigated shortly. Obviously, that was not to the satisfaction of many female employees.
— Sarah Montague (@Sarah_Montague) January 8, 2018
Since the report, the BBC has reportedly offered “revisions” to some women’s pay at the network. Gracie shared that she was offered a £45,000 raise which still would have left her making less than other male international correspondents at BBC. She alleges that the BBC’s pay structure is illegal and will testify to that in court this week.
The BBC announced Friday that six of their top male journalists would be taking salary cuts in response to the backlash. John Humphrys, Huw Edwards, Nicky Campbell, Jon Sopel, Nick Robinson and Jeremy Vine will all take voluntary hits to their salaries (which still may not align them with women in comparable jobs at the network).
The announcement comes after Humphrys and Sopel were caught on hot mics joking about Gracie’s exit from the company and making light of the wage gap. Humphrys told the BBC that the cut was his idea and that it was “fair.” The only thing is, it’s not really.
Weighing in on the subject on CTV, human rights lawyer Fay Faraday pointed out that cutting other people down is not the way to rectify inequality. We should be lifting women up, not expecting men to take cuts.
“In human rights law, it’s an absolutely basic principle that you don’t have equality with a vengeance. You don’t bring rights down in order to achieve equality, you bring people up,” she said, “In Canada, the law is: if there’s discrimination, you bring the women’s pay up. The law actually says that you don’t take money away from men, you bring the women’s pay up.”
The BBC has skirted similar laws in the U.K. by having these men voluntarily take a pay cut — whether it was the idea of the journalists or encouraged by the company is not fully clear.
Dear @BBCBreaking we don’t want the men to get a pay cut we want you to take action on #equalpay!
If The men were worth it so are the women. Pay women more. Reminds me of the min wage argument. https://t.co/bir7qe4gkO
— (((Dawn Butler MP))) (@DawnButlerBrent) January 26, 2018
The real issue here is that this is not a solution. It makes these men look like heroes and sort of exonerates the company in the public eye but it doesn’t fix the gap or the systemic inequities in the pay structure. The situation also does nothing to encourage other companies to look at their potential violations of equal pay laws. What man wants to review their company’s pay structure with the risk that they might be shamed into taking a pay cut hanging over their head?
Hopefully, Gracie’s court appearance will lead to a better solution to this BBC wage mess and result in real justice for female employees.