2018 celebrates 100 years since women won the hard-fought right to vote. The movement, started by those brave suffragettes, has seen women rising to the top of their fields in politics, business, sport and media. But their efforts are demeaned and disrespected by the pervasive inability to pay women the same as their male colleagues.
The recent resignation of the BBC’s China Editor Carrie Gracie over the gender pay gap at the BBC is the perfect example. With incredible bravery and determination she has shown in standing up for what she believes is right – that her male colleagues should not be paid more than her for doing the same job.
Carrie’s resignation and her open letter made for shocking reading. She talked of a ‘crisis of trust’ and the breaking of ‘equality law’. These are grave and serious allegations that must be urgently addressed by the Government and by the BBC. What compounds the issue is the appalling statement made by the BBC calling into question the journalistic integrity of BBC women who speak out against the gender pay gap and suggesting they would be seen as biased if they then reported on it.
Last week I asked an Urgent Question in the House of Commons about this issue and this week I co-signed an open letter to new Secretary of State Matt Hancock, urging him to use his power to ensure equal pay for all at BBC and to ensure freedom of speech is protected.
I also understand that the UK’s equality watchdog (Equality and Human Rights Commission EHRC) is to write to the BBC following Carrie’s resignation and I hope real action will be taken. Mind you, given the Tory government has cut the EHRC’s funding their ability to take action may also be restricted.
Despite equality legislation and being forced to publish its pay, it seems little has changed at the BBC.
How many talented women need to resign and be lost before the BBC and other organisations take notice and take action? They should not have to be raked over the coals and publicly shamed to bring about change.
So many establishments remain firmly ensconced in the past, unwilling to recognise equal pay for equal work. At the current rate, it will be more than 50 years before the pay gap closes in the UK. Progress has been so slow since the 1970 Equal Pay Act that it will not be eradicated until 2069, 99 years after the Act, according to consultants Deloitte.
The glass ceiling has still not been shattered, merely fractured, and it is our duty to support women like Carrie until we succeed.