Media must close its own gender pay gap before lecturing others

In the immediate reaction to the BBC’s depressing and brand-damaging gender pay gap, a message from the Woman’s Hour presenter Jane Garvey to her employer leaped out: “If the BBC thinks we’re not talking to each other, we are.”

It would be foolish indeed for any employer to underestimate the extent to which women compare notes with other women. Promotional opportunities (or lack of), respect (or lack of), childcare-unfriendly hours, sexual harassment, those tiny little gendered remarks that keep you awake at night, general misogyny and rates of pay are conversational staples in any workplace with more than one woman.

This is why so many of us who don’t work for the BBC were cheering when Garvey, having talked about the gender pay gap on her Radio 4 programme for a decade, co-ordinated an “act now” letter to the BBC’s director general, Tony Hall, signed by 45 of its highest-profile women employees.

RTÉ journalists speak out

Now RTÉ journalists are speaking out, and the National Union of Journalists has struck while the pay-gap iron is hot, saying it has serious concerns about disparities between RTÉ employment contracts, “with particular reference to gender”, and calling for an independent review.

RTÉ has confirmed that it will review gender equality – a welcome development that shows how pay disclosures at the top of an organisation have the potential to benefit women at every level.

Don’t let anyone tell you that a gender pay gap at the top is not worthy of attention, or that these presenters and journalists are so well paid, possibly overpaid, that the anomalies are not worthy of examination. Women from the BBC’s Emily Maitlis to RTÉ’s Sharon Ní Bheoláin do other women a huge favour when they use their voices to highlight these issues. I’m sure they would much rather not feel the need to do so.

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