These days, the scandals in the media seem to be mostly centered around harassment at work, but a recent headline out of Britain reminded both readers and activists that some women are still fighting for an equitable paycheck.
CNN is reporting that the BBC is apologizing for “underpaying” a senior editor who happened to be a woman. Carrie Gracie, the BBC’s China Editor, learned she was being paid less than male colleagues in similar roles. Gracie challenged that situation, sparking an industry wide conversation about compensation for women and equality of opportunity with their male counterparts.
In an interesting move, both parties — the BBC and Gracie — released a joint statement about the resolution of the conflict. The BBC was blunt in its assessment of the mistake: “Carrie has made, and will continue to make, an important contribution to the BBC… During her tenure as China Editor, Carrie delivered reports, analysis and work, that were as valuable as those of the other International Editors in the same period.”
After the period in question, and after learning of the pay disparity, Gracie resigned and went public with her allegation that men in similar positions earned up to “50 percent more” than their female counterparts. The BBC agreed this was not acceptable, and settled with Gracie for an undisclosed amount of back pay. Having made her point and won the day, Gracie took the settlement cash and donated it to charity.
That happy ending to this story does not mirror the language that has been used to describe the conflict since Gracie initially went public. She went on record, describing the BBC’s pay structure as “secretive and illegal,” language that set off a firestorm at the BBC.
Individual and collective investigations were conducted, and many media outlets picked up the thread of the story, which threatened to damage the BBC’s reputation both in Britain and internationally. In response, the BBC promised to close the gender pay gap of “nearly 10 percent” by 2020.
As promises go, that’s a strong statement, but it will take more than this to remove the perspective some will have that the BBC does not treat women equitably. A lot of attention is currently being paid to these issues, and it’s certain people will be watching to see if the company makes good on its promise. So, in the end, Gracie is content and the BBC has a clear opportunity to get a win by hitting its goal.