Gracie’s book about her ultimately successful battle to win pay equality at the BBC isn’t always an entirely gripping read. As she acknowledges, long accounts of grievance hearings, all circumspection and tedious HR-speak are likely to make anyone’s eyes glaze over. Moreover, the fact that she still works for the BBC – having resigned her position as China editor, she is now once again a news presenter – means that she is careful when it comes to venting her feelings about those (mostly men) who so casually belittled her, in ways both big and small. But still, her book is important, and not only for the sound advice it offers to those who may be going through something similar (it is a manual as much as a memoir).
The British would rather talk about sex and death than how much they earn, so Carrie Gracie broke taboos when she decided to go public with her battle over equal pay at the BBC, that most British of organisations. Part instruction manual, part howl of rage, Equal tells a personal story that changed the public debate... The book is full of advice for others – there is a separate section at the end for employers, men and women. And there are signs of change. On the day Gracie goes public with her fight, she is presenting the Today programme, which discusses the #MeToo movement in Hollywood and gender balance in parliament. “Almost every story resonated with mine,” she realises. Now back in her old job presenting on BBC News, her decision to use her personal story for the public good has put the issue of equal pay firmly on the agenda. Her final piece of advice? “Like talking about other delicate subjects, like sex or death, it gets easier the more you try.”
Gracie’s eventual success is inspiring, but it was hard won. Her honesty about that is important, and shows how much work remains to be done. As she observes, for women without her means and profile, the struggle for equal salaries can feel impossible. A legal right to equal pay is meaningless if it costs women their careers, health and sanity to enforce it.