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No, Women at the BBC Aren’t to Blame for Their Own Gender Pay Gap

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In the latest chapter of the BBC’s equal pay fight, the co-chair of a government campaign to increase the number of women in senior business roles said female BBC journalists allowed the broadcaster’s pay gap to develop.

In an interview with The Evening Standard, Philip Hampton questioned how the BBC’s gender pay gap materialized. He said he suspects the network’s “high-powered, sometimes formidable women” “let it happen because they weren’t doing much about it.”

The BBC last week published the pay of its highest-earning talent and, in doing so, disclosed a yawning gulf between the wages of male and female broadcasters. Two-thirds of the top-paid employees named on the list were white men.

Hampton, the non-executive chairman of drug maker GlaxoSmithKline and former chairman of the Royal Bank of Scotland and J Sainsbury, continued:

“I’ve had lots of women reporting to me or coming in to talk to me about their careers—either for general guidance or employees of companies where I’ve been working. There isn’t a list long enough for all men who’ve asked. Lots of men have trooped into my office saying they are underpaid, but no woman has ever done that.”

In his remarks, Hampton did encourage the BBC to address its problem, saying its “bias is very clear towards men.” Nevertheless, Hampton was immediately tarred as out-of-touch, prompting him to issue a non-apology apology. “I’m not blaming women—not remotely,” he said. “It’s just acknowledging the differences [in behavior between men and women].”

Besides being out-of-touch, Hampton is also wrong.

Women’s reluctance to ask for a raise is often cited as a reason for the persistent gender pay gap, but a study published last year revealed that women ask for more pay just as often as men do—but are 25% less likely to get it.

The study’s co-author Andrew Oswald, a professor of economics and behavioral science at Warwick University, said he expected to find evidence for the common theory that women are less pushy than men. “But the women and the men were equal,” he said, prompting him to conclude that, when it comes to the gender pay gap, discrimination against women was certainly a factor.