Former BBC China editor Carrie Gracie has said the reason she was given for being paid less than male counterparts was that she was “in development”.
The presenter, who resigned from her post in protest at pay inequality, is giving evidence to a committee of MPs.
“It is an insult to add to the original injury. It is unacceptable to talk to your senior women like that,” she said.
Gracie said the BBC had offered to pay her £100,000 in back pay after the inequality came to light.
Speaking to the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, she said the offer “sounds like a tacit admission of pay discrimination”.
She told the MPs: “But the thing that’s very unacceptable to me… it [the BBC] basically said in those three previous years – 2014, 2015 and 2016 – I was ‘in development’.”
She added: “I would never have gone to China on those terms. I asked for equal pay at the very beginning.”
Gracie, 55, who has worked for the BBC for more than 30 years, became visibly emotional at several points, including when she said she was “very angry” about what female colleagues had been through.
Image copyrightPAImage captionCarrie Gracie became emotional as she spoke to MPs
“I was, for four years, leading our China coverage. There are significant risks in our China coverage. I dealt with them I did a good job,” Gracie said.
“I’m getting emotional, but what I really want to say about this equal pay problem at the BBC is what it forces the BBC to do is to retrofit defences, justifications, of the indefensible.”
A number of female BBC presenters, including Kate Adie, Mariella Frostrup, Kate Silverton, Louise Minchin and Naga Munchetty, were in Westminster to support Gracie.
As Gracie spoke, former Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman tweeted her support for the presenter.Gracie stepped down as China editor in early January, saying she was dismayed to discover the BBC’s two male international editors earned “at least 50% more” than their two female counterparts.
She criticised the way BBC executives had handled her situation, saying the stance from managers was “damaging the credibility of the BBC in a completely unacceptable way”.
She said: “We’re not in the business of producing toothpaste or tyres at the BBC. Our business is truth. We can’t operate without the truth.
“If we’re not prepared to look at ourselves honestly, how can we be trusted to look at anything else in reporting honestly?”
Gracie is returning to a job in the BBC newsroom.
She said: “I could leave the BBC tomorrow and get a better paid job. I don’t want to leave it in this state. It is in deep trouble and we need to sort it out and I need to be there alongside the other great BBC women, helping the BBC to sort it out.”
Carrie Gracie’s testimony to the DCMS select committee contains several revelations. These include her rejection of back pay close to £100,000, and the fact that the BBC’s letter to her about her grievance said she was “in development.” Without seeing the letter in full, it’s impossible to know the context, of course, but it seems a sloppy choice of words.
Revealing that she twice had breast cancer, recently suffered a family bereavement, and that her daughter had leukemia, Gracie detailed the very difficult personal circumstances that she has endured during the recent stages of her career.
Her explanation that she spent 214 days in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan last year counters several reports in the media, and Gracie specifically expressed disappointment at negative briefing against her which she believes originates in the corporation.
Several times, Gracie made clear that she believes she is very lucky to work at the BBC, and cast “BBC Management” as a “fortress” often acting against the interests of BBC men and women. The BBC Women campaign group is now up to 190 at least, she said. And she produced a number of memorable phrases that have already been widely picked up on social media.
Perhaps her strongest line was the claim that the BBC doesn’t trade in toothpaste, it trades in truth. The implied allegation that it has been less than honest has the power to hurt on organisation founded on principles of public service.Director general Tony Hall and other BBC executives will also speak to the committee.
A review published on Tuesday said there was “no evidence of gender bias in pay decision-making” at the BBC.
But the review, conducted by auditors PwC, was rejected by BBC Women.
The group, which comprises presenters and producers, said: “There’s been no transparency on which individuals were included or why.
“The BBC has chosen who to compare with whom, and what factors justify any gaps in pay. The only mention of equal pay in the letter of engagement with PwC refers to an assessment of equal pay risks.”
It is understood the BBC will now consult staff about the report’s recommendations before deciding whether to adopt them.
The issue has been in the headlines since last summer, when the BBC published a list of presenters who earn more than £150,000 per year, revealing a gap in the earnings of its best-known male and female presenters and actors.