Mythical BBC Gender Pay Gap

Resisted entering the fray yesterday because, frankly, more power to Carrie Gracie’s elbow. Any moves to minimise unfair inequalities gets my support.

Her public letter indicates very specific struggles and experiences with management in her case and results in her own courageous moves to resign the one specific post where she saw “same pay for equivalent job”. I respect that and others in the #meetoo camp.

Many others however, commenting on “same pay for same job” – not just absence of unfair inequality – seemed to be conveniently ignoring all subtleties of individual cases for a “principle” that really doesn’t exist. I too can envisage – am actively campaigning towards – “post-capitalist” economic models where income – basic income – is unrelated to employment, but it would take a centrally planned economy to establish a pay rate for every job totally independent of any supply and demand dynamics. The fact that idiots like Trump can do more damage with greater money-for-old-rope wealth doesn’t change the fact that some of us can do more good with the possibility of greater earnings – over and above basic income. Any income over basic – minimum or rate for the job – may need to be justified, but not necessarily transparently and certainly not by populist poll or the politburo.

Even if an editorial journalist post could come with a job description where the BBC could set a rate for the job, it would be ludicrous to see that job description as the whole story for any public personality fronting the role independent of the public history of the individual in the role and a whole basket of other subjective skills and qualities. It was Evan Davies @EvanHD twitter thread from yesterday (below), seen this morning, that led me to post this today. Yesterday I was tempted when I saw people using Jeremy Bowen (Mid-East Editor) as the example of same pay for same job in Carrie Gracie (China Editor) case. But it’s a ludicrously crass way to attempt an objective comparison. Orla Guerin in (say) Kate Adie’s footsteps maybe more useful cases.

Finally, simply casting any such “unfair” inequalities as a gender issue is itself crass. Purely political choice by the claimant. Simply more “identity politics”. Sure there are unfair gender inequalities, but these are mostly historical legacies of patriarchal domination in so many walks of like. I’m good with affirmative action to nudge cultural evolution away from such legacy, it is already happening, but legislation against any inequality here and now can only cover “basic” cases. History matters, and it’s not simply eradicated by wishful application of valid and well-meaning legislation. Transparency is over-rated. It may expose more problems, but may be counter-productive to progressive solutions.

Anyway the @EvanHD thread pretty much says it:

To which all I will add – I’ve said it many times before – is that Humphrys is probably the greatest barrier to progress at the BBC. It is (a) generally wonderful how so many women are making progress in production and front-line BBC roles, and (b) particularly wonderful that the BBC is active in analysing and criticising itself publicly as well as maintaining scrupulous self-interest and impartiality standards. All power to Carrie Gracie’s elbow, but let’s stick to the specifics and not reduce this to some gender pay equality myth. We’re better than that.

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[And, the day after:

Smart cookie, Carrie.]

[And the Humphrys / Sopel off-air exchange:

Precisely, the dick-head here is John Humphrys – always has been – his retirement long overdue, and salary no doubt due to long-standing employment contract from days when these things counted for something. Sopel here is embarrassed, curt, wanting to get on with the business of the programme just about to start. Sopel is OK, as is Jeremy Bowen compared to Carrie Gracie (as I mentioned above). This has nothing to do with gender, other than the history of male domination in legacy positions, salaries & contracts. A dick-head is a dick-head whatever their gender. Sorry Carrie, Evan is right.]

[Post Note: The PWC report shows that the BBC Gender Pay Gap is indeed mythical better than most industrial sectors and any gender differences historical than bias. This version has the link to the full report.]


Also published on Medium.

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