Controversy over BBC gender pay gap

A PwC report found “no evidence” of systematic gender bias in the pay of the BBC’s 824 on-air presenters, but offered several key recommendations to reduce the size of the 6.8 percent gender pay gap including fixing “anomalies” in decision making processes.

“The BBC’s lack of consistency and transparency has fed these perceptions [of discriminatory behaviour] and the BBC needs to work hard to rebuild trust and ensure transparency and consistency as it moves forward.”

Examples of this include the pay of some BBC presenters at the ‘local’ level for individual programmes and placing too much weight on the prominence and profile of certain individuals.

The BBC aims to reach gender parity by 2020, having already resolved over half of the 230 individual cases raised relating to pay equality both on and off-air, with the remaining cases to be resolved by summer 2018. Prior to the report, six prominent male BBC presenters who all earn over £200,000 a year had agreed to take pay cuts, and the BBC has announced that there will be pay rises for some men and women in the near future. BBC’s on-air presenters’ pay will now be determined under a new framework to match the existing framework for the rest of the BBC staff. Further pay transparency will be introduced including changes where, for every role that there are 20 or more employees in the same role, staff will be able to compare the rates of pay.

The BBC Women group had rejected the report prior to its conclusion on the basis that it had not consulted its members, who felt that they had been excluded throughout the process. They called for an apology, back pay and pension adjustments to make amends for what they describe as a failure to comply with equality laws.

To increase transparency regarding gender pay gaps in the private sector, businesses with at least 250 employees are required to publish their gender pay gap by April.

However, the requirement can produce perverse incentives for businesses. The required comparison does not account for experience, qualifications, or job role. This has the effect of making businesses who attempt to offer more opportunities to women by hiring mostly female entry-level employees appear like they are more discriminatory, not less.

Broader questions for the measurement of gender pay gaps will continue. For instance, the Office for National Statistics estimates that the gender pay gap for full time workers is 9.1 percent. This however does not compare like-for-like roles and so fails to measure the direct gender-based pay gap. However, critics of such comparisons point out that comparing pay in like-for-like would mask the challenges and discrimination faced by women attempting to move into certain careers and attempting to gain promotions.

In order to achieve gender equality, it is vital to understand how big the problem is and the source of the inequality. Only then can it be remedied. The increase in transparency from the BBC and the Government could aid that process, but only if consideration for the underlying meaning of the data is accounted for in government, business and the media.


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June 2022
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