INTERVIEW-She beat the BBC, now reporter tackles FTSE pay gap

by Elena Berton | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 4 September 2019 16:04 GMT

Journalist and author Carrie Gracie, who has released a book about her battle for equal pay at the BBC, in an undated handout photo. Frank Monks

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The award-wining journalist, who left the BBC over pay discrimination, says she hopes her book with give both men and women the tools to challenge the gender pay gap

By Elena Berton

LONDON, Sept 4 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Carrie Gracie, an award-winning journalist who challenged the BBC over pay discrimination and won, is sending her campaigning book to the 94 men - and six women - who run Britain's biggest 100 companies to ram home her message on equality.

Titled "Equal" and based on Gracie's year-long battle for equal pay, the book aims to enlist the men with the most power to drive change at their companies, as well as offer advice to women on how to stand up for themselves.

"Employers have the most power to make change," Gracie, 57, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a telephone interview.

In a career spanning three decades, Gracie has been a China correspondent and Beijing bureau chief, as well as a presenter on the World Service. She remains a BBC News presenter.

Gracie's publisher, Virago, is sending the book to the chief executives of Britain's 100 largest listed companies, hoping to encourage executives to take concrete action.

Only six FTSE 100 CEOs are women and they earn just over half the salary of their male counterparts, according to British charity The Equality Trust.

Although equal pay was enshrined in British law in 1970 with the Equal Pay Act, a quarter of companies and public sector bodies still run a pay gap of more than 20% in favour of men, according to government figures released in April 2018.

"Employers really need to think about the pay gap. They need to think about economic efficiencies, because they are not using their economic capital well," Gracie said.

"It's very damaging to trust and alienates the female workforce, as we found at the BBC."

Gracie quit her post as BBC China editor in January 2018 in protest at being paid far less than her male peers.

After a high-profile battle, she won an apology from the broadcaster and donated her back pay of 361,000 pounds ($443,200) to gender equality charity Fawcett Society to help low-paid women fight discrimination.

Gracie said companies struggle to end the pay gap when discrimination is so deeply ingrained in most workplaces.

"It's very hard to get it right and there has to be strong leadership from the top, and there has to be a very determined effort to address the problem with a clear eye," she said.

Drawing on her own fight with the BBC, Gracie urged women to protect themselves at work as current law fails to do so.

"My story is not unusual. What's unusual is that I told it."

She had just as strong a message for men, saying they had the power to level the playing field.

Men could be open about their own salary, she said, and attend women's pay negotiations to show solidarity.

"If men believe in fairness, they too have a role here," she said. ($1 = 0.8145 pounds) (Reporting by Elena Berton @ElenaBerton; Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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