Female stars call on BBC 'to sort gender pay gap now'

Some of the BBC’s most high-profile female personalities have called on the corporation to “act now” to deal with the gender pay gap.

Presenters Clare Balding, Victoria Derbyshire and Emily Maitlis are among those who have signed an open letter to Director General Tony Hall.

They urge him to “correct” the disparity over gender pay, which they say has been known “for years”.

A BBC spokesperson said progress had been made, but more “needs to be done.”

On Wednesday, the BBC revealed the salaries of stars earning more than £150,000.

The salaries, published in the corporation’s annual report, revealed two-thirds of its stars earning more than £150,000 are male, with Radio 2 DJ Chris Evans the top-paid on between £2.2m and £2.25m.

Claudia Winkleman – whose name was not on the original letter – was the highest-paid female celebrity, earning between £450,000 and £500,000 last year.

Education Secretary Justine Greening said the BBC’s gender pay gap was “hard to justify”, while Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said discrepancies were “astronomical”.

More than 40 signatories include BBC Sport’s Sue Barker, BBC Radio 4 Today programme journalists Mishal Husain and Sarah Montague, BBC News and Antiques Roadshow presenter Fiona Bruce and The One Show’s Alex Jones.

The report shows “what many of us have suspected for many years… that women at the BBC are being paid less than men for the same work,” the letter says.

Pay disparities continue “beyond the list” of those earning more than £150,000, they add, including in areas of production, engineering, and regional and local media.

‘Age of equality’

The letter continues: “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 organisation 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.”

The women say they are “prepared to meet” Lord Hall to ensure “future generations of women do not face this kind of discrimination”.

Women’s Hour presenter Jane Garvey – who organised the letter and is not on the list of top earners – told BBC Radio 4’s BH programme the BBC should “set a standard” when it comes to fair pay.

“We are not after pay parity,” she said, “it is fairness that we are in pursuit of here, not enormous pay rises.”

“I love what the BBC is meant to stand for – let’s show the rest of Britain what this incredible institution can do.”

Clare Balding said she became concerned about the gender pay gap in 2010, when after presenting Women’s Hour she realised her pay for the show was “40% lower” than similar programmes.

“We are the high earners, that’s why we are on the list, but don’t tell me that isn’t reflected all the way down [the BBC],” she told the programme.

“It is right through and that’s where I think we have got to stand up as the ones who are on the list and say ‘hang on, enough, we can help you with this’.”

‘Astronomical’

Education Secretary Ms Greening, who is also responsible for women and equalities, told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday it was “impossible not to be shocked” by the BBC gender pay gap.

She said it was a “reputational issue” for the BBC, adding that it was “very hard to justify” some of the pay discrepancies.

Labour leader Mr Corbyn told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show he would be happy to sign the letter, saying the BBC “needs to look at itself”.

But he said problem was broader than just the BBC and discrimination remained a “serious” issue in the UK.

Marr, who is paid between £400,000 and £449,999 a year by the BBC, said if he was a woman he would have been removed from the TV “10 years ago”.

“There’s a real lack of older women on the screen,” the 57-year-old said.


Who are the BBC’s top female earners?

  • Claudia Winkleman, Strictly Come Dancing co-host and Radio 2 presenter – £450,000-£499,999
  • Alex Jones, presenter of The One Show – £400,000-£449,000
  • Fiona Bruce, BBC News and Antiques Roadshow presenter – £350,000-£399,999
  • Vanessa Feltz, BBC radio presenter – £350,000-£399,999
  • Tess Daly, Strictly Come Dancing co-host – £350,000-£399,999
  • Sue Barker, BBC Sport and Question of Sport presenter – £300,000-£349,999
  • Lauren Laverne, BBC Radio 6 Music presenter – £300,000-£349,999

A BBC spokesperson said “significant changes” have been made over the last three years, but the corporation needs “to do more”.

Lord Hall “will of course meet individuals to hear their thoughts”, they added.

The spokesperson said the average pay of male BBC employees was 10% higher than women – compared to a national average of 18%.

“We are committing to closing it by 2020 – something no other organisation has committed to doing,” they added.

“The BBC’s workforce has been hired over generations and this is complex and cannot be done overnight.

“We are, however, confident that when these figures are published again next year they will show significant progress towards that goal.”

When questioned about the gender gap last week, Lord Hall said there was “more to do”, while BBC director of radio and education James Purnell said male presenters could take pay cuts.

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