Carrie Gracie, the BBC’s former China editor, has told a group of MPs that the broadcaster belittled women to justify paying them less than men and needed help to close its gender pay gap.
During a hearing before the digital, culture, media and sport committee yesterday, she said the BBC was incapable of reducing the size of its gender pay gap alone.
The broadcaster has proposed to close its gender pay gap in its on-air roles by 2020 and improve the ratio of men and women in presenter positions.
Gracie, who resigned from her former role in protest against the BBC’s “secretive and illegal” pay culture earlier this month, also accused its female head of news of misleading her during salary negotiations and wrongly informing a colleague that she was a part-time worker.
“I would expect the most senior woman in BBC News to stand up for her senior women journalists,” Gracie told MPs.
She said that the BBC had last week offered her £100,000 in back pay after it admitted it had “inadvertently” underpaid her for the past four years. She had also been offered a £45,000 pay rise.
BBC director general Tony Hall confessed to the committee that almost 200 female members of staff had been underpaid.
He said he did not agree that the China editor should be paid as much as the North America editor because of the difference in the scope and scale of the roles.
“It’s not a matter of gender, there are balances between the different editors,” he said.
Gracie was paid £130,000 as China editor. She said she was assured she would receive the same salary as the North America editor when she took the role, but when BBC presenters’ salaries were published last year the North America editor’s salary was put in the £200,000-£249,999 range.
Gracie said the BBC’s attempts to explain the differences in the way male and female staff were paid was like “trying to retrofit justifications for the indefensible”.
Hall claimed there had been no intentional gender discrimination at the BBC and apologised to Gracie for the way it had handled her concerns.
The general secretary of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), Michelle Sanistreet, claimed the BBC faced 297 equal pay claims.
In its written evidence ahead of the committee hearing, the NUJ said it was “regrettable that it took the forced publication of a list of high-earners and the resultant outrage amongst staff and licence fee payers to start to get action on a longstanding problem of the BBC’s own making”.