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Girls & Women

A Top BBC Journalist Revealed Exactly Why She Just Quit in an Inspiring Open Letter

One of the BBC’s leading journalists — who also happens to be a woman — has quit her post as the corporation’s China editor. 

In an open letter to the BBC audience, Carrie Gracie revealed exactly why she did it, and why she is predicting an “exodus of female talent at every level” if the pay culture at the BBC doesn’t change. 

“The BBC belongs to you, the licence fee payer. I believe you have a right to know that it is breaking equality law and resisting pressure for a fair and transparent pay structure,” Gracie, who has worked at the BBC for 30 years, wrote in the letter.

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“For far too long, a secretive and illegal BBC pay culture has inflicted dishonourable choices on those who enforce it,” she added. “This must change.” 

And Gracie has seen an outpouring of support, including from high-profile figures including broadcaster Clare Balding, newsreader Emily Maitlis, and "The Today Programme" presenter Sarah Montague, and which saw #IStandWithCarrie become a top-trending hashtag. 

A group of more than 130 broadcasters and producers, known as BBCWomen, has also voiced its support decribing it as "hugely regrettable that an outstanding and award-winning journalist like Carrie Gracie feels she has no option but to resign from her post... because the BBC has not valued her equally with her male counterparts." 

Gracie’s decision comes six months after the BBC revealed pay details of its top earners — those bringing in more than £150,000 a year. 

It was the first time the BBC made the revelations, and it laid bare the significant pay gap between male and female staff, as well as those from black, Asian, and ethnic minority (BAME) backgrounds. 

Only a third of the 96 people on the list were women, according to the report, and only 10 were from BAME backgrounds. 

Read more: 7 White Men Dominate BBC Top Earners, Reveals Huge Gender and Ethnic Pay Gap

The highest seven salaries were all paid to white men. Not a single woman earned more than £500,000 in 2016/7, and no BAME workers made the top 15.

“For the first time, women saw hard evidence of what they’d long suspected, that they are not being valued equally,” wrote Gracie in her letter, released on Sunday night. 

In response to Gracie’s letter, a BBC spokesperson said: “Fairness in pay it vital. A significant number of organisations have now published their gender pay figures showing that we are performing considerably better than many and are well below the national average. Alongside that, we have already conducted an independent judge-led audit of pay for rank and file staff which showed ‘no systemic discrimination against women’.” 

“A separate report for on-air staff will be published in the not-too-distant future.” 

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Gracie, who has held her high-profile post since 2013, described her own experience of the gender pay gap as an example. 

She tells how she accepted the newly-created role of China editor, despite knowing that it would mean she would be working 5,000 miles away from her teenage children, and in a “heavily censored one-party state.” 

And she said she accepted the role on the condition that she be paid equally with her male peers, and departed for Beijing believing that she had secured that condition. 

It was only when the BBC pay details were published in July that Gracie learned the truth. 

“In the past four years, the BBC has had four international editors — two men and two women,” she wrote. “The Equality Act 2010 states that men and women doing equal work must receive equal pay. But last July I learned that in the previous financial year, the two men eared at least 50% more than the two women.”

Read more: 8 Stunning Facts About the Gender Pay Gap After Iceland Decided to Ditch It

After lodging a complaint, insisting that she wasn’t interested in a pay rise so much as pay equality, Gracie described how she was offered an “unequal pay rise.” 

Since her complaint, and turning down the pay rise, she said she has “been subjected to a dismayingly incompetent and undermining grievance process which still has no outcome.” 

And Gracie wrote that she isn’t alone, saying “up to 200 women” have complained to the BBC in the past six months, “only to be told repeatedly there is no pay discrimination at the BBC.”

“Can we all be wrong?’ she asked. 

Gracie’s letter also rubbished the often-cited claim that the gender pay gap is due to men generally occupying more high-profile roles. 

“It is not men earning more because they do more of the jobs which pay better,” she wrote. “It is men earning more in the same jobs or jobs of equal value. It is pay discrimination and it is illegal.” 

Read more: The Infuriating Reason Nearly 20% of Male Recruiters Are Reluctant to Hire Women

She added that it was “painful” to leave her post in China so abruptly, and said most of the team in the BBC’s Beijing bureau are “brilliant young women."

“I don’t want their generation to have to fight this battle in the future because my generation failed to win it now,” she wrote. “To women of any age in any workplace who are confronting pay discrimination, I wish you the solidarity of a strong sisterhood and the support of male colleagues. 

“It is a century since women first won the right to vote in Britain,” she finished. “Let us honour that brave generation by making this the year we win equal pay.” 

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Global Citizen campaigns to achieve the UN’s Global Goals, including for gender equality. Through the #LeveltheLaw campaign, we aim to put a stop to laws that discriminate against women around the world. We believe that if women are able to contribute equally in society, then everyone will benefit. You can join us by taking action here