I stand with Carrie

As the Golden Globes prepared to get underway in Los Angeles, news came regarding a letter written by Carrie Gracie, a prominent journalist at the BBC. Gracie had stood down from her post as China Editor after it emerged that she was being paid 50 percent less than that of her male colleagues.

Gracie, in a letter posted on her web site, wrote that she had no interest in becoming the story, but said the broadcaster’s audience had a right to know what was going on, and accused the broadcaster of breaking British law.

“In the past four years, the BBC has had four international editors – two men and two women,” Gracie wrote. “The Equality Act 2010 states that men and women doing equal work must receive equal pay. But last July I learned that in the previous financial year, the two men earned at least 50% more than the two women.”

Speaking in an interview with the BBC’s Woman’s Hour program, Gracie said she was not after more money, but she wanted to be treated equal.

Others had commented using the hashtag #IStandWithCarrie.

The BBC made salary disclosures in 2017 which indicated a significant gender pay gap between its male and female presenters, and sparked a campaign by some prominent female BBC journalists to have the broadcaster fix the issue. Lord Hall, the Director General of the BBC, has pledged that the broadcaster would close the gender pay gap by 2020.

Incidents on gender pay gap however go beyond the BBC, and have reached to newsrooms in the United States. The Wall Street Journal had made headlines when it emerged that female employees were being paid less than their male counterparts. Separately, data from the US Census bureau indicate that women are paid 86 percent of what their male counterparts make.

Men and women who enter journalism do so to inform, engage and educate. They all have the same goals and have the same desire to do what is embodied in SPJ’s Code of Ethics – to seek the truth and report it.

We as an industry must no longer be complacent about how women are treated. Women’s contributions in journalism are equal, and they should be equal. There is no excuse or just reason to suggest otherwise.

In 2016, my colleague, Elle Toussi (who co-chairs SPJ’s International Community) and I co-signed a resolution at SPJ’s Excellence in Journalism conference in New Orleans, calling for the elimination of the gender pay gap and the support of women in journalism. That resolution included the BBC’s plans to make half its workforce women by 2020, and the Journal’s review of the gender pay gap.

It is essential that both organizations stand by their word, and that all news organizations strive to make an equal working environment for everyone, one that does not intimidate or cause fear, but one that values creativity and the contributions of all journalists.

Gracie’s message was clear when she said enough was enough, and I for one agree. While this is an issue that cannot be resolved overnight, we need to not only keep talking about it, but do something about it. Women are the future of this industry, and their work is vital in helping ensure the industry remains vibrant.

We can make these changes and we must, not just for the thousands of talented and kick ass women who dedicate their lives to quality, ethical journalism, but for journalism itself.

I stand with Carrie.

Alex Veeneman is a freelance journalist in Minneapolis and a member of SPJ’s Ethics and FOI Committees. You can interact with him on Twitter @alex_veeneman.

The views expressed unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

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