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What should the BBC do next?

The shocking and fascinating revelation of the astronomical salaries commanded by some of the BBC’s ‘top talent’, as well as the predominance of white and male presenters among the top 20 earners has perhaps eclipsed the reality that in barely six months, companies across the UK will be expected to publish their own pay gap figures. Potentially, this could become something of a cautionary tale for the rest of us in only a few months.

With no BAME presenters in the top 20 and the top earning man (Chris Evans) being paid almost five times as much as the most highly paid woman (Claudia Winkleman at number seven), it seems a highly pertinent time to ask, what should the BBC do next?

This would be my action plan for the Corporation:

  • The revelations have sparked controversy and criticism but remember that there is a virtue in transparency. Don’t be defensive when criticised and don’t rush to change until you have a viable solution in place that supports the Corporation’s long-term goals.
  • Move swiftly to close gender gaps that have no valid reason. This may be further down the salary scale but is an effective first step while bigger issues are resolved.
  • Don’t be immobilised by the scrutiny: be proactive and purposeful in your actions. Commit to three concrete actions and deliver against them, then review and find the next three.
  • Communicate your actions regularly to ensure this story is seen a spur to real positive action. Continue to communicate the real challenges you are facing and how you are looking to overcome them.
  • Open up the debate around diversity internally then work to be a ‘do as I do’ organisation.
  • Use this opportunity to bias proof all policies and procedures for bias and look for ways to eliminate this. Introduce across the board unconscious bias training and measure its effectiveness.
  • Carry out a diversity root cause analysis talk to your female/BAME employees and understand their experiences and perspectives.
  • Encourage those BAME/female to become part of the solution, they will be your most effective ambassadors if you do or your most fervent critics if you don’t, take your pick. Ensure you bring all along with you to ensure you achieve your objectives.
  • Leaders must be bold in their actions and focus on how they can genuinely impact change down through organisational tiers. Build the confidence of decision makers and middle managers. Set the tone at the top.
  • Get help. Changing policies, procedures and processes is hard enough. Changing mind-sets or behaviours is harder. Sometimes it takes a fresh perspective to get people to truly modify their behaviours.

There is no question that it will be painful for the BBC in the interim but if there is a genuine and sincere intention to change then it is possible to turn the situation around and to demonstrate true leadership.

We are all working together to rewrite an organisational rule-book that has been steadfast for decades but has no further place in the 20th century. Change is possible if we stop pointing fingers, encourage transparency and then once we are aware of the state, play to work collaboratively to plug the gap.

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