BBC pays female staff less than men, research finds

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INTERNAL research at the BBC has revealed that female employees are paid substantially less than their male counterparts, despite the corporation's stance as an equal opportunities employer.

The damning conclusions are certain to cause embarrassment for John Birt, the Director-General, who is a founder member of John Major's Opportunity 2000 initiative which promotes equal opportunities for women.

The survey, leaked to the staff union Bectu, shows that women are on average 25 per cent worse off than men. In 1991, the average pay of a female employee was pounds 15,500, compared to pounds 20,500 for men.

Despite the BBC's efforts to promote women, the corporate human resources planning department has uncovered persistent discrimination. It confirms that men dominate the higher echelons, but found that even where women were in comparable positions they earned 6.3 per cent less.

Even in the lower secretarial and clerical ranks where women dominate, the findings are the same - with men in similar positions earning 6.7 per cent more.

Mr Birt plays a pivotal role in Opportunity 2000 and is a member of the committee that sets targets for the 220 organisations in the scheme.

Of the 24,000 employees at the BBC, roughly half are women, but despite highly publicised appointments such as Jane Drabble as assistant managing director Network TV, most are in the lower ranks.

Phillipa Giles, a drama producer, said: 'This proves that a lot of what has been done in the last few years is cosmetic. My experience and knowing what a lot of women are paid would certainly bear that out. If you look at the promotion of women at the BBC you see that a lot of these women like Jane Drabble are not in fact in the most powerful positions - the jobs are all slightly soft - with the exception of Liz Forgan.'

Ms Forgan, managing director of Network Radio, was brought in from Channel 4 last year and is one of three women on the 13-strong board of management.

Christina Driver, organiser at Bectu, said: 'At a time when politicians are criticised for hypocrisy, the BBC is publicly claiming a commitment to quality while privately treating its female staff as second- class employees.'

The BBC denied women were underpaid. A spokesman said: 'We monitor salaries on a regular basis and our latest statistics show that there is no bias against women in like-for-like comparisons.'