Men still dominate BBC's top-paid stars list

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In response to the news HR magazine asked experts what the latest figures say about the progress of gender pay equality, and what this means for other employers

The top 12 earners at the BBC in 2017/18 were all men, it has been revealed.

In the list of stars earning above £250,000 Gary Lineker, Chris Evans, Graham Norton, Steve Wright and Huw Edwards made up the top five, earning between £529,999 and £1,750,000.

The BBC said the published salaries do not reflect some of its recent pay rises and pay cuts, which will not be seen until next year’s list.

In last year’s annual report from the BBC the top seven earners were all men, with some earning more than their female co-hosts. A number of male BBC presenters agreed to take a pay cut in the wake of criticism around this.

Tony Hall, director general of the BBC, said that the latest figures were "not good enough". But he added that the corporation is making progress.

"We are making progress and you must understand that. We're trying to get a balanced range of men and women and their pay right across the organisation," he said. "I am concentrating on what is a huge change, which is going from 25% of women to 40% of women being in the top, over-£150,000 pay... These things take time."

However, partner at law firm King & Spalding Jules Quinn said that lack of progress on the gender split of BBC stars' earnings was disappointing.

“This is surprising. I really would have expected the BBC to have done something significant about this, but so little has changed," she told HR magazine. "It’s a sign that there is something fundamentally wrong with their pay structures. The advice we always give employers is that you need to start by acknowledging the problem – they’ve certainly acknowledged it, but they’ve failed to take meaningful action."

Quinn encouraged employers to look at the root causes of disparities in pay. “Unfortunately the gender pay gap reporting provided a pretty unsophisticated analysis of the problem," she said. "We’ve seen where there are disparities, but there’s no explanation of why they exist. We’d recommend that employers look at their whole pay structure and construct a robust remuneration system.”

However, chief human resources officer at CoreHR Sharon Looney said that the data may not reflect the reality of fair pay at the BBC. She said that it was "encouraging" that it has made progress in addressing the problem.

“Data often shows only half the story when it comes to whether there is an equality problem within an organisation, especially in an instance like this when only a small cross-section of the organisation is included. That said, this report does indicate the BBC has made some progress towards closing its gender pay gap. It’s also encouraging to hear acceptance from its leadership that there remains more to be done,” she said.

She added: “We should absolutely welcome this improvement on last year’s figures, but it’s worth considering that some of this rebalance has come from men accepting lower salaries. While admirable, that concession only solidifies the mindset that such a salary is unattainable if you're a woman.

Looney added that developing talented workers from all backgrounds and genders would help to improve gender equality.

“We need to see all organisations consider whether they’re doing enough to identify and nurture their best workers – regardless of gender or background. Doing so will encourage top female performers to rise through the ranks to rebalance gender inequality at all levels.”

Charles Cotton, senior performance and rewards manager at the CIPD, told HR magazine that the BBC should work to address gaps in recruitment and progression over the next few months. “These pay figures... are a stark reminder of the significant change that the corporation has to make to achieve equal pay for men and women in its workforce," he said. "While there has been progress since last year, the fact that the seven best-paid presenters are still all men speaks volumes.


“Looking at its gender pay gap reporting narrative, the BBC has itself declared that ‘we still have much more to do’, and has set itself the target of closing its gender pay gap by the end of 2020. While we’ve only had one year of gender pay gap reporting so far it’s clear that significant action will be needed to reach this target. The work that is done over the next few months is key – the BBC will need to address recruitment and progression practices, encourage greater take-up of flexible working, and understand the gaps in its reward practices across every level of the corporation."

Cotton added that the BBC has a responsibility to model best practice. “The BBC has to remember that as the national broadcaster it will continue to take centre stage and be looked to for good practice by other organisations," he said. "If it's able to meet its targets it will prove that gender parity is achievable and be able to show other organisations the effect that diversity can have on individuals, organisations and society.”

The BBC's latest report also revealed that 48 people had complained about sexual harassment, nine of which resulted in formal cases of disciplinary action. King & Spalding's Quinn commented that this number was to her mind "worrying", and that employers need to do more to recognise "red flags" within their organisations.

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