We’ve heard numerous times over the past year about women being paid significantly less than their male colleagues. But it never quite loses the ability to shock.
TV presenter and activist Sandi Toksvig provoked gasps among the audience at the Women’s Equality Party (WEP) conference this weekend with the absurdity of the pay gap between herself and former QI host Stephen Fry.
In fact, she told the audience in Kettering on Saturday, she is paid just 40% of what Fry was paid for the same job of hosting the panel show.
Toksvig went on to say that she’s paid about the same as Alan Davies, who appears on the show as a contestant, even though she's the host.
“I temper this with the fact I love this show and am the first woman to host such a show,” she added.
Catherine Mayer, Toksvig’s fellow WEP co-founder, tweeted footage of the moment that shock rippled round the room at Toksvig’s revelation in response to a question about the gender pay gap.
“Until now I had held back from talking about this because this is not about me,” Toksvig reportedly added after the event. “However, the lack of transparency around pay is a big part of the problem and I hope that being open, I can support women across the country whose work is undervalued.”
Mayer told the Guardian: “People just did not know. Sandi has always been clear that this is not about her pay, but she had to answer the question given that the issue of equal pay is at the centre of our party’s policy.”
Toskvig took over from Fry as host of QI in October 2016, after Fry had hosted since 2003. She has now filmed three series, according to the BBC.
Producers Fremantle Media haven’t made a comment, according to the BBC, while the BBC’s press office reportedly said: “QI is made by an independent production company who manage their own talent fees.”
The gender pay gap has been hitting headlines fairly consistently since July 2017, when the BBC published a list of its highest-paid staff — a list dominated by white men. It showed that the highest paid woman was Claudia Winkleman, who came eighth on the list — while no black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) person made the top 15.
In an effort to crack down on the normality of paying women less than men for the same job, the UK government told all large British firms to report the reality of their own gender pay gaps in April 2018.
Women’s rights charity the Fawcett Society described the publishing of the data a “game changer.”
“It forces employers to look at themselves and understand their organisations, and it prompts employees to ask some hard questions,” the charity’s CEO Sam Smethers told the Telegraph at the time.
“But even better than that, finally women are realising that they have a right to talk about pay and they cannot be silenced,” she said. “By finding out what their colleagues earn they are then in a position to challenge any pay inequality. It is much more common than people realise.”