The BBC is facing a backlash after revealing that just two of its top 20 most highest-paid stars are women, despite the corporation’s efforts to address its significant on-air gender pay gap.
The BBC said the number of women making its list of stars paid £150,000 or more increased from 14 to 22 in the year to the end of March, accounting for 34% of the 64-strong list.
The corporation said this would rise to 28 of 69 (41%) by the end of March next year when this year’s pay cuts for male stars – and rises for underpaid female talent – took full effect.
Female presenters to have moved on to the list include Newsnight’s #Emily Maitlis, who earns between £220,000 and £230,000; Woman’s Hour presenter Jane Garvey, who earns £150,000 to £160,000; and former Today programme presenter Sarah Montague, now at World at One, who earns £160,000 to £170,000.
However, only Vanessa Feltz and Claudia Winkleman, the highest-paid female BBC star on £370,000 to £380,000, made the top 20. Winkleman receives a fifth of the pay of the best-paid man, sports presenter Gary Lineker, who receives £1.75m. Winkleman ranks 13th in the top 20, with Feltz 15th equal.
The director general of the BBC, Tony Hall, said the corporation was not being “disingenuous” by focusing on the progress in the proportion of women making the list instead of the ongoing stark pay differential with men. The BBC is aiming to have women make up 50% of the over-£150,000 pay list by 2020.
“We are focusing on that as these things take time,” he said in a press conference. “We would expect [over time] that more women will be in the top 10. It is not disingenuous in the slightest. We have made a huge amount of progress in the last year. Am I satisfied with that? Of course not. Success would be 50-50 and much more equitable pay for men and women.”
The BBC has increased transparency this year by narrowing the pay bands it reports from £50,000 to £10,000. The increase in the number of women making the list comes as big-name stars have agreed to significant pay cuts, helping the corporation in its effort bridge the male-female chasm in pay.