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BBC Star Salaries Reveal Is Bad News For BAME Diversity

20/07/2017 08:29 | Updated 20 July 2017
Dan Kitwood via Getty Images

2017 has felt like one blow after another for those of us pushing diversity boundaries. Just as we are getting over the shock of the government getting into bed with the DUP, the BBC annual report provides a stark reminder of how far we've still to go on our quest for gender equality and true BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) representation.

As the only broadcaster that has to name the earnings of its top-paid celebrities, the BBC has revealed salary details highlighting an internal issue that we know is true of far too many organisations across the country - a gender imbalance and worrying lack of representation, particularly from the BAME community.

Of course, the figures released today are only reflective of a small percentage of BBC employees. We don't know how diversity manifests itself within the wide range of roles at the broadcaster, but it's hard not to imagine them following a similar pattern. As Lenny Henry recently pointed out, diversity means more than simply having a BAME person on the TV screen: 'Who are the producers, the script editors, the director, the first AD? If the deciders remain the same then nothing has really changed.'

It is disappointing to see that a broadcaster who receives funding from the whole of the UK fails to represent its citizens. Seeing the difference in pay between male and female newsreaders makes me worry that there is an underlying 'conscious bias' against women. As a publicly-funded organisation, the BBC should be leading the way in gender pay, not lagging behind some corporates. Not that the corporate world is perfect either: for example, today just 4% of CEOs in FTSE 100 companies are minority-ethnic, despite the UK BAME community making up 14% of the working-age population. And in the FTSE 100, there are more Chairs and CEOs named John than there are women! These are big challenges to address, and clearly ones that face the BBC too. It's great to hear they've acknowledged they have more to do on this front but, as always, actions speak louder than words.

Wednesday's news highlights why it is more important than ever to hold companies accountable for diversity deficits, but also to celebrate the inspirational leaders who prove gender and ethnicity need not be a barrier to success. I whole-heartedly believe that making diverse role models visible and celebrating them is the most powerful way to close the gaps, demonstrating to the diverse leaders of tomorrow exactly what is possible.

This is why we launched the EMpower and FT and HERoes role model lists, to provide much needed inspiration and to shine a light on business leaders who are making great strides in driving the agenda forward and creating a diverse talent pipeline for the future. The BBC is a British institution and I want them to succeed. I hope they're able to re-dress the balance and ensure fairness throughout - be that for women, ethnic minorities or any other under-represented community. With that in mind, I look forward to seeing an influx of nominations from the BBC for next year's role model lists. If I were them I'd be working on these now to save any embarrassment further down the line.

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