BBC ‘breaking law’ with unequal pay for women

Women of the world: This ranking considers many social and political factors as well as income.

Is Iceland right about women? The country has introduced a groundbreaking law to tackle unequal pay between genders. Meanwhile, a BBC employee has quit her job in fury over this very issue…

As the BBC’s China editor, Carrie Gracie was used to reporting on that country’s social issues. But this week, she set her sights on her employer. She resigned from her position and explained why in a fiery blog post.

“[The BBC] is breaking equality law and resisting pressure for a fair and transparent pay structure,” Gracie writes. When the BBC disclosed the salaries of its top employees last July, she learned that men doing a similar job to hers were earning “at least 50% more”.

Up to 200 female colleagues have complained about pay, Gracie adds, but the BBC is not listening.

The organisation’s disclosure of salaries caused a storm last year. Among other examples of inequality, it was revealed that two thirds of the highest earners are male.

The Beeb reported these figures due to a new UK law, which requires large companies to publish data on the gap between male and female salaries. This sort of legislation is common in developed nations.

Iceland has gone further. Under a new law, its companies do not merely have to disclose their pay gap — they have to prove that men and women in similar roles are not being paid differently. The rule addresses the problem, called out by Gracie, of unequal pay for equal work.

It is thought to be the most radical legislation of its kind in the world. Should other countries adopt it?

Payback time

Obviously, say some. As Gracie points out, unequal pay has long been illegal in the UK. Yet it still happens all the time. A law like Iceland’s would put an end to this outrageous practice, and send out a clear message.

It’s more complicated, reply others. Men and women are paid unequally because of ingrained sexist ideas about how well women work. An Iceland-style law would not change that. The solution: deeper reforms of areas like childcare.

You Decide

  1. In Gracie’s place, would you have resigned?


  1. The government has asked you to brainstorm ways to reduce the pay gap. In groups, come up with three new policies.

Some People Say...

“A gender-equal society would be one where the word 'gender' does not exist.”

Gloria Steinem

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The gender pay gap varies by country and trade, but it exists everywhere. Progress toward ending it is slowing, according to The World Economic Forum.
What do we not know?
To what extent the pay gap has to do with men holding higher-ranking jobs, and with men and women getting unequal pay for the same work. It can be hard to define unequal pay, as two jobs are rarely identical.

Word Watch

Carrie Gracie
Gracie is not leaving the BBC altogether. She will take up a job in the TV newsroom, where she expects “to be paid equally”.
Breaking equality law
In 1975, the Equal Pay Act outlawed unequal pay and working conditions between the genders.
Large companies
The biggest pay gap released so far is at women’s fashion chain Phase Eight, where females earn 64.8% less than males.
In similar roles
Specifically, they have to show that differences in pay are based on legitimate factors like experience and performance.

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