The BBC has unwittingly become the star of our nation’s pay gap scandal. Now the story of Karen Martin proves it’s far from over.
When Karen Martin was offered the role of one of two deputy editors in the BBC radio newsroom in February, she accepted. The role was a great promotion for the radio manager and producer - until she found out something that made is slightly less great.
It turned out that fellow journalist Rob Sawyer, who had taken on the other deputy editor role, had been offered £12,000 more than Martin. So, she decided to take a stand.
Sending an email to her colleagues, Martin openly explained that she would not be accepting the promotion because of discrimination: “Despite being awarded the same job, on the same day, after the same board, during the same recruitment process, BBC News asked me to accept a considerably lower salary than my male counterpart.
“I’ve been assured our roles and responsibilities are the same. I’ve also been told my appointment was ‘very well deserved’. It’s just that I’m worth £12,000 less.”
She went on to expose that, following a request for the BBC to reconsider its offer, the employer proposed a new salary – but it was still around £7000 less.
Martin wrote of how the issue was never about salary, but about the issue of equal pay. It was a conversation with her daughters, aged 13 and seven, that persuaded her to refuse the job: “They said: ‘You always tell us to stand up for what is right. If it means less pocket money or not going on holiday, we don’t mind. What matters to us is that when we grow up we want to be paid the same as a man for the same job.’ And just like that, my decision was made.”
She’s now received an outpouring of support from other women for taking a risk and exposing the unfair treatment of women in the work place.
The BBC’s pay gap is already being investigated by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, following the publication of the BBC’s highest-earning presenters in July 2017 that revealed the huge imbalance of earnings. The highest earning male, Chris Evans, was on a salary of between £2.2 and £2.25 million, whereas Claudia Winkleman, the highest paid female, earned a maximum of £500,000.
Then, in January 2018, Carrie Gracie famously quit her job as editor of BBC China following pay inequality with other male international editors.
Martin has now said she will contribute to the investigation.
In response, the BBC’s head of news output Gavin Allen told staff: “We took into account the fact that Roger has worked at or above this level for several years, whereas Karen was offered this role as a promotion, with a significant pay increase.
“We think most people would understand that these factors would result in some difference between their individual pay.”
It’s not believed that Martin has left the BBC, but instead that she simply refused the promotion. But being a clearly sought-after producer and trailblazing woman, we’re sure she’ll have an influx of job offers that reflect her true worth. Listen out for her on a radio near you.