By now, most people are aware of the shocking (but perhaps not surprising) gender pay gap among the top earners of the BBC. The numbers were released to the public last week, and damning headlines about the gender pay gap ensued. However, there is even more discrimination within the BBC than the headlines would have you believe. The pay gap faced by the BAME community is also large, but this is hardly the focus of most articles on the big reveal. Why is this, and how can the BAME community and society at large handle the challenges they face in terms of representation and equal pay?
First, let us review the disappointing numbers released by the BBC. Only 10 out of the 96 top-earners at the BBC were from a BAME background. The BBC’s top earner, Chris Evans, earned roughly the same amount as all of the BAME top earners combined! These numbers are perhaps shocking, but to charities such as JAN Trust who work to combat issues of racial discrimination and prejudice every day, it is no surprise. These numbers show clearly that BAME individuals remain excluded from the elite, and statistics from other research confirms this. People from BAME background account for only 6% of top management positions, despite making up 14% of the working-age population.
Diversity is hugely important in the workplace, and even more so in high profile organisations like the BBC. In our modern society, who we see on TV and who we have in the background of entertainment (such as screenwriters, directors, and crew) is hugely influential. Entertainment should be a reflection of society, and if the BBC does not represent society as it is, people will develop a skewed view of the world, one where minorities are invisible. Ultimately, viewers might find the real world difficult to deal with because it appears too different from the world they immerse themselves in through TV. Arguably, a lack of diversity in entertainment will ultimately result in a worldview where diversity seems unnatural, leading to prejudiced and racist attitudes.
In terms of representation, sticking to “tradition” is often more comfortable and safe than to venture into the uncharted land of “diversity”. Reluctance to represent BAME individuals in popular entertainment can lead to a self-perpetuating cycle. Casting directors may be hesitant to increase diversity in entertainment over concerns that a break from tradition will reduce audience numbers. This results in no change ever taking place, because no one wants to take the first leap. More diversity within the entertainment industry will be a progressive step towards representing multiculturalism in society.
When even the headlines hesitate to call the BBC out for its lack of diversity, it is apparent that we still have a long way to go. Of course, the gender pay gap is also an important issue to highlight, but the fight for one type of equality should never overshadow another.
See more about the work we do empowering BAMER women and supporting diversity on our website http://www.jantrust.org.