To celebrate the publication of Equal, we are publishing this exclusive extract from the book - and offering the first 20 people to sign up to become a Fawcett member from today a free copy of Equal as part of their membership pack. Become a member today and receive your free copy!

Women don’t throw food

In the twenty- first century, capuchin monkeys don’t swallow inequality without protest, but appearing grateful for less is a skill millions of women bring to work every day. Throughout history we have been conditioned to mistrust our own anger.

In Greek mythology the Furies were terrifying goddesses of vengeance with snakes for hair, bloodshot eyes and bats’ wings, beleaguering their victims with brass- studded scourges. Today witches, bitches and bunny boilers stalk popular culture. From early childhood, girls learn to expect less money for more work. A recent US study found teenage girls do more household chores, are paid less for them than their brothers and have smaller allowances. It starts even earlier. A study of twelve year-olds in sixteen countries across the economic spectrum found that in each of them, girls spent more time on household chores than boys did. All children learn that expressing anger risks punishment from those who are more powerful, but some research suggests girls internalise negative emotion more. We often learn to blame and doubt ourselves, to disguise anger or direct it at people less powerful. Anaesthetising ourselves to the everyday sexism of the workplace may not be a great strategy in the long term, but at least it keeps us out of a fight we expect to lose. I started to reason myself out of my anger. After all, my bosses were trying to be conciliatory. 180,000 might not be equal, but it was less unequal. Throwing food is not polite. Perhaps my pebble was worth less than his pebble anyway. My employer had generally valued North America more highly than China and always valued the man now doing that job more highly than it had valued me. It was naive of me to think that I could change either of those givens.I reasoned that people everywhere tend to take their privileges for granted and attribute their success to personal factors like talent and hard work. As a white middle- class person with a degree from Oxford University, I’d leveraged some privileges in my life. Being male was one I hadn’t benefited from. Perhaps I was just blaming my lower pay on gender in order to avoid facing up to my own professional shortcomings. Moreover, I didn’t want to play the Fury. I was heavily invested in being the grown- up woman who gets the other person’s point of view, works out quarrels, avoids grudges. I’d gone through a divorce with no lawyers and stayed friends with ex- boyfriends. I liked men. Now I worried that fighting Xi Jinping’s censorship machine had turned me into someone whose instinct was to fight everyone and everything. Change takes time, I reasoned. The BBC workplace is a mirror of the society it serves. In valuing women less, it is just doing what is habitual and commonplace. Insiders like me would achieve more by patient persuasion than by turning ourselves into a food- throwing rabble at the gate. But the word ‘oversight’ kept nagging at my mind. The BBC was sending reporters out to hold other organisations to account. It felt shameful to use this kind of language to hide its own failings.

What’s more, there was a predictable pattern to the oversights. Women were being paid less, especially older and more senior women. Every pay expert knows this is exactly the demographic group that suffers the widest gender pay gaps. In 2015, a parliamentary inquiry had found that the BBC had an ‘informal policy’ to discriminate against older women. My managers should have been particularly alert to the risk of underpaying women like me, instead of letting it happen and then shrugging it off as an oversight when I found out. The BBC had always claimed it had rigorous processes to avoid just such oversights. A gap of 100,000 could not be explained away like this. I might not need or want that money, but I knew that women at the bottom of the pay and power scale needed women at the top to insist on fair rules. I sent two long and careful emails to my managers, explaining my concerns about the risks of discrimination in the BBC’s pay structure, drawing attention to relevant points in equality law and asking detailed questions about the concrete factors that explained paying men more. I reminded them that I wasn’t asking for more money, but felt I had ‘let all women down by not insisting on equality’. I was trying to be the capuchin who politely asks its handler to study the rules on feeding. I wasn’t screaming ‘give me my grapes’, nor was I in a transaction looking for a mutuallyacceptable price. I just wanted the BBC to have a transparent and fair pay structure that would treat women equally.

I did feel some sympathy for my management, and wrote ‘I know sorting this out is a big headache for you. It’s a big headache for me too. I find it hard to work out what is the right thing to do. But simply accepting a big sum of money cannot be the answer.’

To this day, I’m not sure whether anyone read my emails, as no one addressed the legal points or answered the questions about measuring value. When we had a second phone conversation ten days after the first, I pressed again on concerns about the BBC’s pay structure. The manager said change would take time and joked ruefully that ‘proceedings at the Chinese Communist Party Congress are probably a lot simpler than strategic reviews at the BBC’.

It was not a reassuring comparison.

As for my case, the BBC was not prepared to discuss the huge pay gap of the previous three years or to provide a more detailed defence for the continuing disparity. They wanted me to take the pay rise and move on. When I sent my notes of the conversation to my HR friend, he observed, ‘You’re asking for science and they’re offering art. You’ve broken their argument and they don’t have a counter- argument.’

But the immediate problem was mine.

Today BBC journalist Carrie Gracie publishes her long-awaited book Equal, detailing her battle for equal pay at the BBC - and a shocking look at the extent of pay discrimination in workplaces across the UK. After receiving backpay from the BBC, Carrie Gracie donated the whole amount to The Fawcett Society to set up an Equal Pay Advice Service with YESS Law, aimed at giving free legal advice to women on low incomes who want to find out if they are being paid unequally.