24, July 2017
As top female presenters at the state-funded BBC decry gender pay gap at the corporation, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn says the broadcaster must “look very hard at itself.” Forty female presenters signed an open letter to the director general, Tony Hall, on Sunday, complaining about inequality in men’s and women’s pay. The women included Newsnight presenters Emily Maitlis and Kirsty Wark, presenters Clare Balding and Angela Rippon and One Show host Alex Jones.
Coordinated by Woman’s Hour host Jane Garvey, the effort seeks to fix the pay gap. According to an unprecedented list of top earners published by the corporation on Wednesday, the BBC’s best-paid employee, Chris Evans, collected at least £2.2 million in the last financial year, while Claudia Winkleman (pictured below), the best-paid female employee, was paid between £450,000 and £500,000, a fifth of that.
“The pay details released in the annual report showed what many of us have suspected for many years … that women at the BBC are being paid less than men for the same work,” read the letter. “Compared to many women and men, we are very well compensated and fortunate. However, this is an age of equality and the BBC is an organization that prides itself on its values. 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.”
At least 400 BBC employees earn less than one hundredth of what Evans makes there, according to figures revealed by broadcasting union Bectu last week, as cited by The Guardian. The revelations have also triggered reaction from the leader of the Labour party, who said he would add his name to the letter. “We’d also look at a 20:1 ratio between the chief executive and the lowest-paid staff in every public sector organization,” Corbyn said, calling for a pay audit of organizations.
Secretary of State for Education Justine Greening also reacted to the reports, noting on Sky News that it is “impossible not to be shocked.” “I think it has already kicked off a debate for the BBC about these differentials and the steps they will now need to look at taking to close them, but it is very hard to justify some of the big gaps that we saw,” said Greening . A BBC spokesperson vowed of “significant progress,” in the figures next year, arguing that paying men and women equally “is complex and cannot be done overnight.”
The BBC said it was confident that rapid changes would be made. “The BBC’s workforce has been hired over generations and this is complex and cannot be done overnight,” the spokesperson said. “We are, however, confident that when these figures are published again next year, they will show significant progress towards that goal. Tony Hall meets staff all the time and will of course meet individuals to hear their thoughts as we work to accelerate change.”
Appearing on his show Sunday, BBC presenter Andrew Mar defended his salary of up to £499,999, asserting that women are less likely to have long careers at the corporation and that is evident from “a real lack of older women on the screen.” “I’m a bit grizzled, going a bit weird around the edges,” he said. “But if I had been born Audrey Marr rather than Andrew Marr, I would have been out 10 years ago. There’s a real lack of older women on the screen.”