Gender Pay Inequity—Across the Pond

By: Amy Epstein Gluck

England seems to be sharing America’s gender pay gap woes. Former BBC journalist Carrie Gracie, former China editor, recently explained to British legislators that she left in protest about her pay when she discovered that her male peers, including the male North America and Middle East editor, earned “at least 50 percent” more than she did.

50%—holy cow! That’s a lot of change.

At first, the BBC explained that there were differences in the scale of the jobs as China v. North America editor. But then it audited salaries and found disparities—especially with its on-air reporters—the “stars.”

Gender Pay Trials and Tribulations at the BBC

It seems BBC is having a lot of problems this year with its female staff, explained WaPo reporter Karla Adam. Adam explained that BBC is the largest public broadcaster in the world (i.e., it’s publicly funded), and its pay culture has become a public, central issue.

A few months ago, the BBC published its data for on-air and off-air journalists and discovered that men earned 9.3% more than women. The women were…not happy.

But, the BBC seems to be handling it. Adam explains that some men are taking pay cuts, while the BBC raises salary for some women and men. This seems to be a good first step.

The U.S. Equal Pay Law

Gender pay disparities in our workplaces remain a contentious issue. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 (“EPA”) prohibits sex-based wage differentials for work requiring equal skill, effort and responsibility performed under the same or similar working conditions. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does too.

To make out a prima facie case under the EPA, an employee must show that the skill, effort, and responsibility required in her job responsibilities are equal to those of a higher-paid male employee. The work does not need to be identical, just substantially similar, which is, as so many things are in the law, determined on a case by case basis.

Now, the BBC tried to explain that this was the case—at first. The BBC’s director general stated, for Adam’s article, that “the scope and the scale” between the China editor and North America job were different, and, accordingly, justified the pay gap.

That might be a difficult defense for the BBC to make. Gracie is a senior journalist who speaks Mandarin fluently and has a degree in Chinese. China is a world superpower—just like North America. It’s hard to imagine how much less qualified Gracie was than her male counterparts in North America and the Middle East. But, in any event, she resigned in protest.


As my partner Rich Cohen said here—the answer to gender pay gaps both here (and abroad) requires employers to comply with equal pay laws and not have sex-based wage differentials for work requiring equal skill, effort, and responsibility performed under the same or similar working conditions.

And, as I wrote about here, be the change you want to see!

Employers should track their pay data by gender to determine if any pay differentials between the genders seem unjustified. As we wrote about here, workplaces of pay parity and gender diversity breed employee satisfaction and increase productivity and revenue.

What a bonus!

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Amy Epstein Gluck

Amy Epstein Gluck has represented individuals and corporate clients in Virginia, Washington, D.C., and various federal district courts for more than twenty years. Ms. Epstein Gluck’s current practice areas include employment law—advising on and drafting employment agreements; handling employment negotiations, severance agreements, noncompete and nondisclosure agreements, “wrongful terminations” and other EEO matters; representation at the EEOC level; advising employers about discrimination laws and how to remain in compliance, and employment negotiations.