August 16, 2017

Inequality at the BBC? The gender pay gap & what it tells you.

This post was written by: Ilinca Mardarescu

Inequality at the BBC? The gender pay gap & what it tells you


With the BBC having recently published its list of top earners, issues such as the gender pay gap is hot topic right now.  And rightly so.  No-one wants a world of inequality and we all expect, in this day and age, to be treated fairly at all times, and especially in our working environment.  However, is the press misleading us as to the relevance of the gender pay gap reports that have already been published?  And what does the recent BBC list mean in practice?


Since the introduction of the Equal Pay Act in 1970 (now  consolidated into the Equality Act 2010), employees have had the right to compare their working contract and pay with another employee in the same or similar role who is of the opposite sex to them.  There have been numerous cases being brought in the Employment Tribunals and companies who have tried to eschew the equal pay ethos have paid heavily; not simply in financial terms but with their reputation also.


The Gender Pay Gap legislation however was introduced with a slightly different purpose in mind.  It was all very well and good comparing like for like but often employers would argue that two jobs were not substantially comparable and get away with paying vastly different (and unequal) sums.    Now, under the new Gender Pay Gap legislation, companies are required to report and publish information which is available for all to see.   The information provided will not compare anyone’s specific wages but is intended to show:

  1. The difference in average earnings between men and women
  2. The difference in average bonus payments between men and women
  3. The proportion of men and women in each pay quartile
  4. Whether a company complies with the regulation and how it compares to other companies


A lot of companies have already published their reports and the information is there for all to see on the Government’s dedicated site,  It makes for interesting reading (if you are into that sort of thing) and it may be worth a look if you are planning on joining any of these companies in the near future.  But what does it really tell you about the companies concerned?


Women are still more likely than men to work part-time; at least for a short period of time. It is still relatively common (although some would also now say an enviable luxury) for the mother to choose to stay at home and be the care-giver when raising a young family.   There are rafts of legislation which have been introduced to specifically target and encourage men to share the child rearing responsibilities, but, in my experience at least, the lack of take-up or interest “on the ground” with the Shared Parental Leave legislation is not at all surprising.

And as long as this is due to a genuine choice made within the family for their own reasons rather than any lack of support in women returning to work, then that is perfectly acceptable.  Furthermore, traditionally women’s roles have been in the more administrative and clerical areas.  It is right that young girls now should be encouraged to reach for the stars, but that does not take away from the fact that many women are still in these roles – and indeed may be perfectly happy to be.


All of these factors need to be taken into account when looking at the gender pay gap figures.  If the average pay for women at a company is lower than a man’s but the roles within that same company for women encompass part-time working roles largely taken up by women, the company need to be congratulated on allowing flexible working.  Not publicly shamed.  If more men receive bonus but men are the ones in the more targeted sales roles for instance, then it is right they should be rewarded accordingly.


The one and only thing that should be looked at within any of these companies is whether there is any barrier to women going into these roles, should they chose too. As long as companies encourage women to apply for and take on any role within its organisation, then that company has done its job.


As to the BBC list, they have refused to comment on individual’s wages – perhaps rightly so.  But it strikes me that each individual’s pay will be based on the various contracts they do for the BBC, the shows they are on, how many hours they work each day/week/month, whether they do any research themselves, and even how good their agent is perhaps!


So whilst I encourage wholeheartedly the legislation contained in the Equality Act amongst others and the drive to ensure our young girls fulfil all their potential, what I want to see is equal treatment in the workplace and the ability to choose where and how you work.  The ability for women to choose either to take on more senior, management roles or work part-time, whichever works best for them.  And that may not always mean the same pay.  Perhaps flexibility is more important to some.  And that is fine too.  It is not for companies, or indeed governments, to pressure women either way simply to make their figures look better.   We need to veer away from the hysteria caused by such figures or the recently published BBC “rich list” and look to what is causing the disparity. Because back in the real world, what I am sure all women want is equal pay for equal work alongside the opportunity to work as they wish in whatever role they wish; not preferential treatment.

Ilinca Mardarescu

Head of Employment