“If we can find who – or what – to blame, we know what to change. Is it the culture? Is it men? Or is it women, afraid to ask for what they’re worth? The reality is that it’s a messy combination of all these things. But only one of them can be changed quickly: how women feel about themselves and their value.
This is difficult stuff to talk about. Philip Hampton, co-chair of a government-commissioned review into the number of women in senior business roles, was reviled last week for saying that the BBC women on the best-paid list “let it [the pay gap] happen because they weren’t doing much about it”. During his career in the City, he said, “lots of men have trooped into my office saying they are underpaid, but no woman has ever done that”. Woman’s Hour presenter Jane Garvey hit back, saying he was “peculiarly out of touch”.
Is he out of touch, or is he speaking from experience? After all, the real story here is not about whether 20 wealthy women at the BBC are paid the same as 40 wealthy men. It’s about the millions of women elsewhere who feel uncomfortable about saying: “Can I have a 20% pay rise this year?” This is the internalised pay gap, and it’s everywhere.”