Fighting Wage Discrimination

Fighting Wage Discrimination

Award-winning BBC journalist Carrie Gracie details her long, frustrating struggle to gain equal pay and tells readers how to pursue their own discrimination complaints.

Carrie Gracie hosted the BBC World Service show The Interview, and won a Peabody and Emmy Award during her more than three decades at the BBC.

In mid-2017, when Gracie was the BBC’s China Editor, she discovered her salary was far below that of her male peers. She describes her experience of fighting for recognition and equal pay. Along the way, Gracie explains why pursuing such grievances serves women at every level and describes the personal and professional anguish these battles cause. Gracie’s saga is filled with facts about other equal pay fights as well as advice for women, men and employers. She offers a wealth of information on how to push for equality.

The Guardian said that Gracie’s “book is important, and not only for the sound advice it offers to those who may be going through something similar (it is a manual as much as a memoir).” The Times (UK) said, “For all those who have been eagerly anticipating this book, there must be quite a few BBC bigwigs who have been panicking about it, too. They are right to do so.” Indeed, Gracie pulls no punches in describing the generally obscene behavior of BBC executives.

Pay Discrimination

The gender gap, Gracie explains, is the difference between what men earn compared to a woman’s pay for parallel work. If a company pays a man more than a woman for equal roles or positions, she advises, that is salary discrimination.

Gracie points out that the average woman in the United States will receive nearly $600,000 less than her male peers over a lifetime of work. Women’s pensions in the United Kingdom are 40% less than men’s.

The Same Pay

In 2013, Gracie accepted the newly created role of China Editor for BBC World News on the condition that she would receive the same pay as other international editors. The author discloses, with some asperity, that the 2017 list of salaries at the BBC revealed that she received ₤134,000; her male peer in North America got between ₤200,000 and ₤250,000.

Pay is about how others value us, and if we suddenly discover they value us much less than we thought, it feels like a betrayal.Carrie Gracie

Gracie contacted colleagues at the BBC, and she details how 44 senior women – calling themselves “The BBC Women” – signed a letter stating their willingness to meet with BBC director-general Tony Hall to find a resolution to salary discrimination. Gracie wrote Hall saying that if pay equity wasn’t forthcoming, she would resign.

Gracie relates the punishing process that companies require employees to go through before they can pursue legal action. She believes women should participate in their corporation’s grievance procedure only if they know the process is trustworthy and that filing a grievance is their best tactic.

For those involved in such a process, Gracie recommends stating the importance of equal pay, identifying your peers’ salaries, keeping precise notes of all meetings and recording them as well.

Gracie shows how The BBC Women generated mutual information and support that made the grievance process manageable. She reminds you that employers try to divide and conquer employees who challenge them. Sharing facts, salary figures and research, she insists, makes collective action possible and feasible.

Solidarity is essential when fighting for equality.Carrie Gracie

Many other people at the BBC faced pay discrimination based on their ethnicity or gender identification, Gracie notes. She cites a Social Mobility Commission report finding that nearly 90% of British journalists were “elite white men” and that most senior reporters, columnists and editors had gone to private schools in a country where 90% of students go to public schools.

Gracie calls for men to support gender parity by revealing their pay rates, but she found that nearly 50% of men in the United States think pay discrimination is a contrived political ploy. Gracie also learned that American judges who have daughters are most likely to support women’s causes. 

Gracie cautions that many successful people suffer from imposter syndrome – especially women in male-dominated fields. No matter how self-conscious you feel, the author counsels, hold your ground.

Director-general Tony Hall claimed the BBC didn’t have an equal pay problem. Gracie relates how his pronouncement both demoralized and challenged her. News director James Harding implied the women’s complaints were inaccurate or crazy; Gracie reports their outrage at his denial of facts.

To achieve change, women don’t need men to lead, but we do need men to identify their privilege and renounce it.Carrie Gracie

Gracie reports that she finally took legal action and after weeks of discussion, the BBC agreed that her work as China Editor deserved equal pay. After paying taxes, the author underscores that she donated the rest of her ₤361,000 in back pay to the Fawcett Society to launch the nonprofit Equal Pay Advice Service to help other women seeking advice and help to fight discrimination.

Two Paths

Gracie, of necessity, spends what some readers may regard as inordinate space detailing hearings, processes and discussions. These might grow tedious, but if you are engaging in a similar struggle, every syllable will be riveting. The author still works at the BBC, and readers will recognize when she is restraining herself from spilling her true feelings about some particular jerk or other.

Gracie offers two paths of great merit. The first is her courageous detailing of the emotional toll her struggle demanded. Those details will help prepare anyone who is facing similar challenges and aligns with Gracie’s theme of the importance of solidarity. The second trail is how thoroughly Gracie documents her tiresome path to justice, and how that documentation provides a template for all who strive for equal pay.

Other worthwhile books addressing women’s pay inequality and sexual harassment include She Said by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, The Gender Wage Gap by Melissa Higgins and Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez.

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