The BBC gender wage gap reveals a bigger problem
At the end of last month, the BBC was forced to reveal its employees’ salaries, and the results upset many—specifically, the considerable wage gap between its male and female employees. Two-thirds of the presenters who earned over £150,000 were men. Radio 2 DJ Chris Evans was the top-paid male employee, at a salary of over £2m a year, while the broadcasting company’s highest-paid female presenter, Claudia Winkleman, earned just £450,000.
British politicians weighed in on the disparity: Education Secretary Justine Greening described the pay gap as “hard to justify,” and Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn called the difference in wages “astronomical.” Female stars of the network signed a letter to the director of the company in July, stating that the reports had revealed “what many of us have suspected for years … that women at the BBC are being paid less than men for the same work.” Since then, BBC Director General Tony Hall responded, promising that the pay gap will be closed by 2020, adding, “When figures are published next year I am confident they will look very different. Over the next three years I want the BBC to be regarded as an exemplar on gender and diversity.”
Of course, the wage gap affects women in the media industry far beyond those employed by the BBC. Actresses in Hollywood are paid overwhelmingly less money than their male counterparts hired to play similar roles. Not even Oscar-winning actresses are immune to the gap; Emma Stone has spoken about the issue before, saying, “I’ve needed my male co-stars to take a pay cut so that I may have parity with them. And that’s something they do for me because they feel it’s what’s right and fair.”
Women below these relatively high pay grades obviously face this issue, too. For example, the gender wage gap in the U.K. is at 9.4 percent, which is its lowest percentage yet—but that still isn’t 0 percent. Women should never be paid at a different rate than their male counterparts. And those who argue that the pay gap correlated with gender differences in professional hierarchies—that men have higher-ranking jobs and therefore deserve to be paid more—should ask why our male equivalents disproportionately occupy these jobs.
But despite these upsetting findings about the current reality of the gender wage gap, there is hope, especially in the U.K. By April 2018, all companies in the U.K. with 250 or more employees will have to publish figures showing the average amount they pay their employees broken down by gender. This transparency will reveal how widespread the gender pay gap is and ideally encourage companies to change their policies. Hopefully, other countries will follow suit and do what they can to eradicate this pervasive sexism.
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