St Nic’s Church
Chaired by Katy Shaw, we met the incredible Carrie Gracie. Known for her role as the BBC’s China editor and with a prolific career in broadcasting, she is now synonymous with blowing wide open the truth of gender pay discrimination at the BBC. Her new novel, ‘Equal’, details her triumphs and tribulations during this fight.
Gracie notes how, on the day of discovering the pay gap, she felt bewilderment, confusion and then anger. She was in a state of disbelief that she could be 3000 miles from home in China, a state known for journalistic censure, and the institution she took pride in working for could be so discriminatory.
In light of these feelings of fury, Gracie spoke about how women are conditioned from birth to mistrust their own anger. Gracie argued that from early childhood women are expected to work more for less money, noting a study exploring the household chores of daughters and sons. Gracie also described a study of unconscious bias around payment and employment, which showed prospective employers choosing to employ the male candidate over the female candidate despite their applications being exact copies. Gracie found this to be an indication of how society systemically undervalues and thus underestimates women. This was shocking and eye opening not only for me personally but the audience too.
Throughout the event, Gracie emphasised that equality is the answer. Not only in terms of equal pay for equal work, but in our work-life balances too. Gracie used the example of parental leave still not being equal for mothers and fathers. Gracie indicated her astonishment that this is still the case, it baffles her that all of the evidence is out there, and it only takes good practice to implement such changes into the workplace. As such, Gracie continues to advocate for equal pay.
After an audience question, Gracie noted that her story is ‘incredibly commonplace’ and that her public presence gave her a platform to defy and highlight such discrimination. Gracie shared with the audience that people are often amazed when they discover it is happening to them, adding that it is belittling and insulting for women to be treated as sub-standard.
As an audience, Gracie left us empowered and with the message that we cannot accept anything less than ‘equal’.
This work was produced by participants on our Durham Book Festival Reviewers in Residence programme, a cultural journalism programme run by New Writing North Young Writers. Reviewers in Residence gives aspiring journalists aged 15-23 the chance to review books, attend events and interview authors at Durham Book Festival. For more information about New Writing North Young Writers visit the New Writing North website.