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The BBC's Gender Pay Gap Mirrors The Nationwide Chasm In Men And Women's Earnings

19/07/2017 12:54 BST | Updated 19/07/2017 12:54 BST
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The BBC has revealed its biggest male stars earn four times as much as its top female earners and I can't decide which is more depressing: this fact or the fact that few are surprised by it.

The BBC has revealed its top-earning BAME women earn half the amount of its top-earning white women and I can't decide which is more depressing: this fact or the fact that few are surprised by it.

The BBC has declared that there's a lot more work to do, while conceding that next year more salaries will be paid via production companies so they won't have to publish them at all - you know where I'm going with this.

The biggest challenge in challenging inequality is that you not only have to first prove it exists but that you then have to demonstrate why we should care. Setting aside my personal upset over the number of interchangeable male sports presenters paid more than Emily Maitlis (who doesn't even make the list), the most significant part of today's story is that our national state broadcaster is simply broadcasting the state of the nation. The pay gap at the BBC mirrors a nationwide chasm between men and women's earnings that splinters further with every intersection of race, age and disability.

Pay transparency is vitally important. We have to reveal this stuff and look at it face on, and then reveal more and look at it again. The crowing from other media outlets this morning is obtuse and absurd. Multi-millionaire Paul Dacre's Daily Mail splashing a "BBC Rich List"? Please. Show us the size of your pay gap and then let's talk. The gleeful disingenuousness of Piers Morgan telling me on Good Morning Britain that 'women dominate' at ITV? Let's ask Susanna Reid what she earns compared to you Piers.

But making pay equal isn't just about businesses topping up women's pay when they are forced to - as, according to Westminster gossip, the BBC has been hastily doing in recent weeks.

We have to challenge time and time again the idea that talent looks white and male. We have to laugh at and tear up the tired old trope that the best-paid people are simply "the best person for the job." To follow that argument to its natural end would be to conclude that women, people of colour, and disabled people all lack talent and white men are born with it. It simply cannot be the case the the BBC is paying its top men four times as much as its top women because the men are just better at the job.

We have to consider the practical barriers to women working and be honest about the fact that having children isn't a 'lifestyle choice' but a shared responsibility between men and women. UK childcare is the most expensive in the world - in the world! So why in the world do we still think that women don't progress because they aren't good enough?

And while we're at it, let's reconsider what it means to be good at a job. The pay gap is also the result of gender stereotypes enforced from birth that encourage boys to be scientists and engineers and girls to be carers and cleaners. We tell boys that we value them and will pay for their talents. We hear their voices and applaud their ingenuity. We tell girls they are biologically suited to the jobs that we don't value at all and that their ideas count for less. And when they aim for "men's jobs", and/or high-profile jobs, we tell them to get a thicker skin, to learn to speak up better, that they will struggle because it's not in their nature to do well in some arenas.

The BBC report today blows apart the argument that women can combat structural inequality if they just try harder. Now it's time to blow apart that inequality. The Women's Equality Party has policies to publish pay at all companies with more than 250 workers and to break it down by the number of full-time and part-time workers, the number of BAME and disabled workers, and look too at retention rates before and after maternity leave. We have a costed plan for state-funded childcare between the ages of nine months and five years. And we believe that quotas are essential to have equal representation of women at executive and board level of all companies.

This isn't just because it would be nice to have. It's because our pay gap is our productivity gap and the fractured world of work is creating a fractured society. We need equality because it's better for everyone. And because talent isn't the preserve of middle-aged white men.

Sophie Walker is leader of the Women's Equality Party