“I knew I would do that job at least as well as other man. And there was no man.”
On Wednesday, journalist and broadcaster Carrie Gracie appeared in parliament for a hearing before the digital, culture, media and sport select committee. The subject of the hearing was pay inequality at the BBC, a subject which Gracie has amplified in recent months to an international talking point.
The former China editor for BBC News, Gracie resigned from her post in early January with an open letter condemning the BBC’s “secretive and illegal” pay culture. Her decision was prompted by the broadcaster publishing the salaries of its top earners last July, which revealed that the North America and Middle East editors – both men – were being paid significantly more than Gracie and Europe editor Katya Adler.
Since her resignation, Gracie has refused to stop talking about the problem of pay inequality, leading her to be called to give evidence before MPs.
At the two-hour hearing, Gracie presented a damning indictment of BBC culture, saying that she and other women employees routinely felt “belittled” by senior figures at the broadcaster, and recommending that “external help” be brought in to help repair trust. As is customary with parliamentary committee meetings of this kind, the hearing often took the form of an interview, with MPs breaking in to ask Gracie questions about her experience at the BBC.
Yet in her expansive replies, Gracie often seemed more like she was delivering a campaign speech. She was impassioned and articulate, radiating controlled fury as she pounded the table before her with her fingers. Occasionally, her eyes appeared to gloss with tears, particularly when she was asked about the allegation that other senior BBC figures had covertly briefed the press against her. But her resolve and composure never wavered.
Below, we’ve selected some of the highlights from Gracie’s evidence to MPs. Prepare to feel inspired.
On discovering the extent of pay inequality among international editors
“I said [before taking the job as China editor] that I had to be paid equally. I knew, as did many other women in the BBC, that we had been underpaid by comparison to male peers … I knew I’d give the China job every last ounce of my skill and stamina, I knew I’d do that job at least as well as any man, [and] I insisted on equal pay.
“I thought I had won a commitment to pay parity when I set off to China, which is why I got such a shock last July when I discovered that two men as international editors were being paid at least 50% more than the two women international editors.”
On being told that her lower pay was because she was ‘in development’ as China editor – despite being 55 years old, fluent in Mandarin, in possession of a Chinese degree and having worked for the BBC for more than 30 years
“It is an insult to add to the original injury. It is unacceptable to talk to your senior women like that. I would have never agreed to China on those terms.”
“I knew I would do that job at least as well as other man. And there was no man. Frankly there was no other candidate for the job at the time.”
“That is what has to happen if they are not going to concede, they are going to have to crush your self-esteem about your work, so that is very painful. I found all of that really hard.”
On the importance of honesty about pay equality
“We’re not in the business of producing toothpaste or tyres at the BBC – our business is truth. We can’t operate without the truth. If we’re not prepared to look at ourselves honestly, how can we be trusted to look at anything else in our reporting honestly?”
On what would ‘solve the problem’ for her
“My problem will be resolved by an acknowledgment that my work was of equal value to the men who I served alongside as an international editor. An apology would be nice.
“I note that the BBC is saying it’s ‘very grateful’ to men last week, last Friday, taking a voluntary pay cut. They’ve never said they’re very grateful to me for not taking a pay rise at the time.”
On her message to BBC management
“I told [BBC director-general Tony Hall] you have to show courage, you have to show leadership, you have to be brave on this issue. We are still waiting.”
“It is going to get worse, we have women leaving, the credibility of management is diminished and damaged and they will lose in employment tribunals. They are stumbling towards a Greek tragedy where they make happen their own worst fears.”
On this being about more than money
“I didn’t ask for pay rises, I only asked for equality. This is damaging the credibility of the BBC in a completely unacceptable way.”
“I feel very angry about what [BBC managers] have put some other people through, I feel angry about some of the things I’ve seen and heard [from] some of the women and the suffering they have gone through. It’s not funny. All of these women have been underpaid, for years, some decades.”
“My case is just an example of the bigger problem. If the BBC can’t sort it out for me – for me, a senior person of 55 in a powerful position – then how can it sort it out for more vulnerable people who don’t have a public profile? That’s my concern.”
“I could leave the BBC tomorrow and get a better paid job. I don’t want to leave it in this state. It is in deep trouble and we need to sort it out and I need to be there alongside the other great BBC women, helping the BBC to sort it out.”
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Images: Rex Features