Sometimes differences in salary are down to differences in status, experience, length of service, negotiation skills, market forces and even pure luck. For example, Apollo 11 moonwalking astronaut Neil Armstrong was famously paid a lot more as a civilian grade astronaut than many of his fellow Apollo astronauts who had been “detailed” to NASA from the US military. They got lower paying military pay rates. Likewise, sometimes a little bit of pay inequality i.e. extra pay, is necessary to reduce shortages in certain roles (the shortage of Physics teachers in the UK could be addressed in this way if only the teaching unions would let it).
Other times however, differences in pay are wrong, illegal and deserve to be challenged – as the BBC is painfully finding out.
Having talked a good fight about being pro-diversity and pro-equality (albeit that BBC’s pro-diversity positive discrimination policies are actually technically incongruous with equality), the BBC has been found to be paying men and women at different rates in its top tier pay rates. The disclosure of this gender pay gap has caused protests amongst the BBC workforce who resent this, and also the very large inequality between the salaries of the highest paid BBC “stars” and the salaries of its “ordinary” workers.
While there are elements of envy and ego involved in this controversy, the fact remains that individuals (male or female), doing the same job with the same level of talent and experience, and under the same market conditions of supply and demand, rightly expect that they should be paid at the same rate. In fact, this is the law in the UK.
The BBC’s own very well paid upper management may like to think of themselves as “morally enlightened” and “progressive” types, but, in reality, their hypocrisy is showing through. For when it comes to equality, the BBC continues to disgrace itself in this respect. Until these pay and opportunity inequalities are ironed out by them, turmoil and ridicule will continue to haunt the corporation.
Update on 30 January 2018: Some of the BBC’s best paid male presenters agreed to take a pay cut so that their female colleagues would be paid at the same rate. In a further development, despite being derided by the BBC’s critics as a “white wash”, a subsequent “independent” report by PWC into gender-based pay inequality of the BBC’s on-air staff reportedly found that while there was inequality there was no deliberate gender bias at the BBC. The BBC is choosing to address the report’s actual criticisms by using more positive discrimination to let women be equally represented in its senior – and hence higher paid – television and radio presenter roles.
Update on 15 March 2018: Those other UK-based media firms, including those that have criticised the BBC, have been forced to admit that similar to the BBC, they also have gender inequality in pay rates – sometimes worse than those at the BBC. As the old saying goes: “You don’t like in others what you see in yourself.”