Steph McGovern hints at the BBC's class pay gap, says, 'posh women are paid a hell lot more'
Steph McGovern expressed her frustration at being considered not posh enough to succeed as a BBC presenter.
Stephanie "Steph" McGovern claimed that the BBC has been busying itself with addressing concerns about the gender pay gap and a lack of cultural diversity, but that it had neglected to represent the United Kingdom's working classes. The public service broadcaster certainly does have a history of elitism but claims that it no longer favors the posh.
In an interview with the Sunday Times, the 35-year-old business presenter for BBC Breakfast, who also hosts Watchdog, and Shop Well For Less?, discussed her recent pay rise that accompanied a string of pay rises across the broadcasting company in an effort to combat the gender pay gap. She received an increase as well, which placed her earnings at six figures for the first time.
McGovern said, "Throughout my career, I’ve had to argue about [pay]. It’s not as simple as a gender issue, it’s partly down to class. There are a lot of women who do a similar job to me who are paid a hell of a lot more . . . who are a lot posher than me." She was of the opinion that presenters' salaries should not exceed £150,000.
According to the Sunday Times, McGovern did not mention any names, but last summer, the BBC released its pay details, and seven out of the nine women in news who were reported to be earning over £150,000 had been privately educated, including Fiona Bruce, Laura Kuenssberg, Victoria Derbyshire, Mishal Husain, Martha Kearney, Sophia Raworth, and Kirsty Wark.
McGovern pointed out, "We concentrate too much on ethnic diversity and not enough on class. It’s dead important to represent loads of different cultures. But what the BBC doesn’t do enough of is thinking about getting people from more working-class backgrounds. It’s just posh." She also expressed a desire to hear more regional accents on the BBC.
Another issue brought up by McGovern was that many of BBC's managers came from a middle- or upper-class background. She said, "A lot of people in management are from the same background. We’re talking about ‘How do we represent more working-class people?’ when they themselves are not working class. So how do they know?" She was once even told by a manager that she was "too common" for her job.
McGovern describes a moment of realization she had: "There was an epiphany for me one day when there was a map of my hometown on a wall in the Radio 4 office. They said: ‘We’re doing a programme about antisocial behavior orders.’ I said ‘What’s the red line on the map?’ ‘That’s the no-go zone for the crew.’ I was like: ‘My mum and dad live in the middle of that.’"
BBC's pay problems have been in the public eye for the past two months, ever since its China editor Carrie Gracie stepped down when she found out that her male counterparts, Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen and US editor Jon Sopel were earning almost 50% more than she was. She wasn't even among the list of people earning above £150,000 despite having worked at the BBC for over 30 years.
In an open letter, Gracie wrote, "Despite the BBC's public insistence that my appointment demonstrated its commitment to gender equality, and despite my own insistence that equality was a condition of taking up the post, my managers had yet again judged that women's work was worth much less than men's."
Inspired by Gracie's public reproval of the BBC, former foreign correspondent Jane Standley, recipient of the Sony reporter of the year award in 1997, opened up about the disparity she had faced that led to her resignation. "My boss actually acknowledged it and told me it was something I had to put up with. I am so angry that things just don’t seem to have changed," she told the Observer.
McGovern's comments received some backlash, with people claiming that she was against ethnic diversity and that she should be satisfied with her six-figure salary. She took to Twitter to clarify her remarks in her interview, writing, "We talk a lot in the BBC about how to be better at ethnic diversity, which is important because we're not good enough at it."
She continued, "However, we never talk about class and I suggested that if we did it would make us more diverse in lots of ways, including ethnicity." McGovern added, "I am in a very fortunate position; I love my job and never dreamed I would have such an amazing career and salary."
She hoped that people from a similar background would be inspired to rise above class restrictions, writing, "I grew up in Middlesbrough, a town that is often portrayed in a negative light, but one I love. I want the people I grew up with and everyone from a place deemed as 'poor' to know that they should never be held back from achieving the best in life and they should be proud of where they're from."
There’s a lot in the press today about my comments on class. Here is what happened: pic.twitter.com/H0rC221BGB— Steph McGovern (@stephbreakfast) February 25, 2018
Meanwhile, the BBC issued a statement saying, "More than 80% of our staff were educated in state schools."
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