‘Troublemakers’ across all sectors, not just at the BBC, should be encouraged to do what it takes to achieve justice at work
In 1971, I was working on a regional evening paper. The Equal Pay Act (superseded by the 2010 Equality Act) had been passed the year before but was not due to come into force until 1975, along with the Sex Discrimination Act. So, every Saturday afternoon, “girl reporters” were required to sit in a cubicle the size of an upright coffin and type whatever incomprehensible guff a half-cut (male) sports reporter bellowed down the phone as he filed his report on a local football match. We girls didn’t utter a peep of protest. Clearly we must have done something to deserve our fate.
The internalising of blame – it’s me, not systemic unfairness – has long made it easy to pay women less. It has also kept the focus on women’s behaviour, not on the conduct of employers who persistently break the law. Women tell each other they lack confidence, they avoid talking about money, they do not believe they are worth it, all true of many of my generation. We entered the workplace when we were often the only outsider ie female, in the office, allegedly earning “pin money”. But now?