Earlier this month, the BBC published the salaries of its top-earning talents. It was an eye-opening moment, not least of all because only a third of the broadcaster’s top earners are women – and its highest-paid male star, Chris Evans, earned a whopping £2.2 million last year (over 75% more than the highest-paid woman, Claudia Winkleman, who made £450,000).
Since then, BBC bosses have said that they are actively working to close the pay gap across the network, although many have criticised them for allowing such a huge disparity to open up in the first place.
Thankfully, though, a man has stepped up to defend the Beeb from the backlash – and reminded all of us that it’s the women themselves who are to blame for the scandal. Obviously.
Yes, we’re deadly serious: Sir Philip Hampton, who genuinely chaired a Government-commissioned review into the treatment of women in the UK’s biggest companies, sat down with the Evening Standard and ever so earnestly informed everyone that it’s the BBC’s female stars who are the true villains of this story.
Why? Because they were the ones who let themselves be paid less than their male colleagues.
“How has this situation arisen at the BBC that these intelligent, high-powered, sometimes formidable women have sat in this situation?” asked Sir Hampton. Which, at a glance, looks like a genuine and thought-provoking question – one which could spark an interesting debate.
Unfortunately, though, Hampton was being entirely rhetorical. And thus he was quick to respond with an ill-thought-out answer.
“They [female broadcasters] are all looking at each other now saying, ‘How did we let this happen?’” he said, adding: “I suspect they let it happen because they weren’t doing much about it.”
As if that weren’t enough to set every woman’s teeth on edge, Sir Hampton continued: “I’ve had lots of women reporting to me or coming in to talk to me about their careers – either for general guidance or employees of companies where I’ve been working.
“I have never, ever had a woman ask for a pay rise… lots of men have trooped into my office saying they are under-paid but no woman has ever done that.”
Sir Hampton, perhaps sensing his words would be met with frustrated sighs across the nation, insisted that many chief executives would tell the same story.
“It is far more common for men to ask for more money than it is for women,” he reiterated.
Though it's long been thought that women lack assertiveness and confidence in work situations and therefore simply don't talk money as often as men, a study of 4,600 people last year found that women ask for pay rises just as often as men do (something you may expect the former business equality tsar to be aware of). Additionally, Hampton’s comments fail to address the fact that employers have a responsibility to provide equal pay, rather than put the onus on the employee.
So, unsurprisingly, his comments have not gone down well with the general populace. At all.
Sharing a photo of the front page to her Twitter, Jo Swinson – the deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats – wrote: “Blaming the workplace gender gap on women?
“Not a good look.”
And Ross Allen, the British Director of International Trade in the USA, added: “Usual excuse, ‘women don't ask for raises’. A) not true and B) even if true, act.
“Set up system for fair pay, ignoring who shouts loudest!”
Elsewhere, ex-minister Nicky Morgan, who appointed Sir Hampton to the gender review, told the Standard: “Surely we have moved beyond it being about who marches into the boss’s office asking for a pay rise.”
Speaking about the gender pay gap scandal on a recent episode of Newsnight, the BBC’s director of radio and education James Purnell said that bosses are actively working to close the gender pay gap across the network.
“Quite a lot of men have been taking pay cuts; John Humphreys said that today on air,” he revealed.
“I’m not going to start negotiating live on air, but that’s clearly one of the levers we can pull, and we have been doing that.”
Culture secretary Karen Bradley has said the publishing of the BBC’s high-earning stars list should have a “deflationary” effect on the salaries of its top male stars.
The BBC has pledged to close the gender pay gap by 2020.
Images: Rex Features