More transparency needed to tackle pay inequality

Written by Jenni Davidson on 16 January 2018 in Comment

It would be easier for women to challenge unequal pay if they could see they were getting less

Money and a payslip - Image credit: Nick Ansell/PA

Last week BBC China editor Carrie Gracie took the dramatic step of resigning from her post over pay inequality, saying she “could not collude” with wage discrimination and accusing the national broadcaster of “breaking equality law”.

“I am not asking for more money,” she said. “I believe I am very well paid already – especially as someone working for a publicly funded organisation. I simply want the BBC to abide by the law and value men and women equally.”

Gracie had been offered an extra £45,000 on top of her £135,000 salary after she complained about being paid less than male counterparts doing equivalent jobs.

Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen was listed in figures released last July as earning between £150,000 and £199,999 and North America editor John Sopel between £200,000 and £249,999, while neither Gracie nor Europe editor Katya Adler appeared in the list of BBC employees earning over £150,000.

But she refused the offer because it did not guarantee parity, an issue she said she had specifically made a condition of her taking the job in China.

Gracie said: “This is not the gender pay gap that the BBC admits to. It is not men earning more because they do more of the jobs which pay better.

“It is men earning more in the same jobs or jobs of equal value. It is pay discrimination and it is illegal.”

National statistics on the gender pay gap are published each year, with Scotland on 16.1 per cent in 2016, similar to the EU average of 16.3 per cent.

Recent analysis by Scottish Labour also found that in Scotland, 22 per cent of women earn less than the living wage, compared with 14 per cent of men.

However, this relates to the overall pay gap for all women in all jobs. It is affected by part-time work often paying less per hour than full-time work, by some traditionally male-dominated professions paying more than predominantly female ones, and by some women taking time out of work or choosing less senior roles for childcare or caring reasons.

The overall BBC pay gap is far lower than the UK average, at nine per cent. But a smaller gap does not necessarily mean parity within roles.

Overall statistics do not show the differences between the salaries of women and men doing the same role in the same company, nor do they provide the means to tackle the problem.

This is unlikely to be an issue that is specific to the BBC – although it is particularly serious in a publicly funded organisation. And it seems obvious that the only way to reveal the extent of the problem – and deal with it – is to have greater transparency.

The whole controversy over BBC pay has occurred because the organisation was forced last year to make public all salaries over £150,000 as part of its new charter, leading to controversy after a number of women found they were being paid less than their male counterparts for seemingly similar roles, sometimes presenting the same programme. This has led to pressure on the organisation to tackle it.

In Norway all tax returns are publicly viewable. Anyone can see what anyone earns – or at least what they have declared in their tax return.

If everyone was able to see what everyone else earned, there would be more push from everyone to justify differences.

If women don’t know they are getting less, there is less basis for negotiating a change. It would be a brave move for any government to introduce, but it could very well make a significant difference.

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