To play the media you will need to either update your browser to a recent version or update your Flash plugin.
Hi, this is Gerry, and this is my News Digest for Friday 27th April, 2018. On today’s show I’m going to talk mainly about two subjects: the gender  pay gap  and the Commonwealth Games. Women’s rights are going be the linking theme, and I’ll finish with a feminist quote from an unlikely source.
On the last show I talked to you about the BBC and how it’s funded. There are regular stories in the newspapers about how the BBC wastes money, for example recently about salaries for its stars. As a result, the BBC was forced to tell us how much their top presenters  earn. What emerged  was not so much how high the salaries were as the fact that men were paid a lot more than women for very similar jobs. The main morning news programme on BBC radio, for example, has four or five presenters who work in teams of two. All the men earned up to twice as much as the women. And it’s not just in the BBC that we find this gender pay gap. It’s become a big news story this year.
We have a law in the UK that says that people have to be paid equally for equal work, regardless of  gender, race, religion or anything else. So what more can the government do? The laws need to be enforced, of course, but there are other ways that can put pressure on employers. To highlight the gender pay gap problem, the government introduced a new law this year. This requires  every organisation that employs more than 250 people to publish their gender pay gap, that is to say the difference between what all the men in the company earn per hour on average  compared with what the women earn.
The results have been very interesting. At present 80% of companies have a higher average wage bill for their men than for their women. The difference, nationally, between the median  men’s wage and the median women’s wage is nearly 10%. The gap varies, however, between different sectors of the economy. For example, airlines have a huge gap. Ryanair reported a gap of nearly 80%. This is explained by the fact that nearly all their high-earning pilots are men, while their women employees are mainly employed in lower paid positions. Banks and other finance companies also have a big difference, as do supermarkets and other companies that tend to have top managers who are predominantly male .
The UK is the first country in the world to ask for data like this. It remains to be seen whether this publicity will make a difference to the gender pay gap. It certainly seems as if a lot of major companies are now looking at why they don’t have more women in higher positions earning more money. One of the problems in the UK, and in Switzerland for that matter , is secrecy  about salaries. In the case that I talked about at the beginning of this story – that of the presenters on the BBC radio news programme – the woman with the lowest salary had no idea that she was paid so much less than her colleagues. She was also one of the most experienced members of the team. “Had I known ,” she said, “I would have complained earlier.” But do people want their salaries to be published? In Germany, I read that you can now ask your company to tell you the average salary for your job category. Friends also tell me that job recruitment websites in Switzerland often provide data on average salaries. Perhaps that’s the way forward. Except that everybody wants be above average in situations like that!
The Commonwealth Games have just taken place on the Gold Coast in Australia. There are 53 countries in the Commonwealth – most of them used to be part of the British Empire and some of them, like Australia, Jamaica or Papua New Guinea still have the Queen as their Head of State. At the recent Games there were 71 teams but I said there were only 53 countries. So how did that happen? It’s because there are also some British Dependent Territories  that send teams, places like Bermuda, Gibraltar, the Falkland Islands otherwise known as the Malvinas, Jersey, the Isle of Man and so on. And there are separate teams for the so-called Home Nations (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland). This makes the games popular in Wales because we have our own team.
The Games are often called The Friendly Games – they’re not as intense perhaps as the Olympics, the World Cup or other World Championships, but having said that the competition is always very fierce  between countries like Australia and England or New Zealand. Following on from my previous story, you may be interested to know that the Commonwealth Games this year were the first international multi-sport event to have an equal number of medals for women and men. The first such event, in other words, with gender equality. There were 19 different sports including some typically British ones that you won’t find at the Olympics such as women’s netball , or lawn bowls . The Australians still got the most medals, followed by England and India. But I’m pleased to say that Wales won a record number  of medals and came 7th, just ahead of Scotland.
The Commonwealth is a strange organisation. It accounts for  20% of the world’s land area, with members on all six continents, as well as about a third of the world’s population. It’s probably an ideal example of “soft power”. It’s neither an economic alliance nor a military one. It’s linked by shared historical connections, the English language and the promotion of democratic values. From time to time countries have been suspended from membership when they have ceased to respect  those values. For the time being , the Queen remains Head of the Commonwealth but it will be interesting to see what happens when her reign finally comes to an end. At the Commonwealth summit in April, which was held in London, she hosted the meeting for the last time in over 65 years, because she’s not doing any long-distance travel any more. At this meeting she talked for the first time about succession . She said that she hoped her son would be the next Head of the Commonwealth. There’s no reason, however, why the Head of the Commonwealth couldn’t come from another member country, but perhaps not in the foreseeable  future.
So, on today’s show we’ve talked about equal pay for women, equal recognition and opportunity for women’s sport, and I promised you a feminist quote  to finish off. It comes from an American woman who died recently. She wasn’t famous for supporting women’s rights; she was famous because she’s the only woman to have been both the wife and the mother of an American president. I’m talking about Barbara Bush, who was quite a character, I think. Anyway in a speech she once gave to students at one of the most famous women’s colleges in America, she said the following: “And who knows? Somewhere out in this audience may even be someone who will one day follow in my footsteps, and preside over the White House as the president’s spouse  …” – she paused and then finished by saying “ … and I wish him well .”
And that’s it for today. To comment on my stories, please write via the PodClub website (podclub.ch) or on Twitter to me @Gerrypod. And don’t forget the PodClub app with its extra features. I’ll be back with my next News Digest on May 22nd. Till then, take care!