Veteran BBC journalist Carrie Gracie announced Sunday she had exited her role as China editor, citing a “secretive and illegal” pay culture. She joins a club of workers who quit to make a statement
Sometimes quitters do win.
Veteran BBC journalist Carrie Gracie announced Sunday she had exited her role as China editor, citing a “crisis of trust” from learning she earned 50% less than male colleagues in what she called a “secretive and illegal” pay culture.
“The BBC belongs to you, the licence fee payer. I believe you have a right to know that it is breaking equality law and resisting pressure for a fair and transparent pay structure,” Gracie wrote in an open letter to her audience. “I am not asking for more money. I believe I am very well paid already — especially as someone working for a publicly funded organisation. I simply want the BBC to abide by the law and value men and women equally.”
Gracie, who says she expects “to be paid equally” upon her return to the BBC newsroom, quit on the heels of former E! host Catt Sadler, who left the network last month after discovering her male co-star had made nearly double her salary for years. “How can I accept an offer that shows they do not value my contributions and paralleled dedication all these years?” she wrote in a blog post. “The way I see it, I have an obligation to be an agent for change.” Ex-MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry, while she didn’t quit her job online, bitterly parted ways with her employer shortly after slamming it on Twitter for preemptions to her show.
Protest resignations range far beyond TV: Former Twitter engineer Leslie Miley, in a November 2015 Medium post, explained he’d left his role as the company’s sole African-American in engineering leadership over a lack of diversity. During his three years at the platform, Miley said, he’d pushed for diverse candidates at hiring committee meetings and pitched a job proposal to boost diversity in engineering. His tipping point, he told Moneyish, came when the then-senior VP of engineering suggested he create a tool to classify job candidates’ ethnicity by surname. “You’re speaking to a person who has been profiled his entire life,” he said. “Why would you suggest that?”
Miley, who says he resigned ahead of learning he’d be part of the company’s layoff plans, chalks his departure up to “the cognitive dissonance of a company saying they are about equality and inclusion” even as its internal actions “were such that it was ethically and morally reprehensible for me to remain.” (His parting words, he believes, resonated within the company and “supercharged the conversation” around its diversity.) Fortunately, Miley had a director of engineering job lined up and a savings-account safety net. He’s not worried about having damaged his job prospects in tech, he said, partly because “I probably wouldn’t want to work at any place that has a problem with me because of that.”
With that said, Miley added, “I think you only get to do that once.” “I would hope … that I’ve learned enough; I’ve learned which questions to ask, to not have to do this again.”
Engineer Carlos Martín also made headlines in May, when he quit alongside another member of the EPA’s Sustainable and Healthy Communities Subcommittee over the agency’s dismissal of its “strong, credible” co-chairs — and the perceived implications “for future scientific research and the credibility of science.” Martín and fellow expert Peter B. Meyer condemned the move in a resignation letter posted to Twitter, pointing to “the watering down of credible science, engineering and methodological rigor” underlying the decision.
— Carlos Martín (@carlosonhousing) May 12, 2017
While some felt a duty to stay on the subcommittee “to make sure that good science was still advocated for internally,” Martín said, he didn’t see much potential to effect change from within. “I’d rather be on the outside being a critic, rather than pretending to be on the inside when I have no power,” he said. Martín, who served in a temporary advisory capacity rather than as an actual EPA worker, has a day job at the Urban Institute and no regrets about his decision. “I figured the fight would be better aired with sort of this conscious public decision by Peter and myself, because they know we’re not putting up with this,” he said. “This is a line that has been crossed that we’re not comfortable with.”
If you’re considering quitting a job in protest, career coach Roy Cohen said, your financial security goes a long way in determining how much latitude you have. “Any decision of that magnitude should be discussed with significant others because it will inevitably have an impact on them, (especially) if your income is essential,” he added. Try and secure colleagues within the company who are willing to serve as references for you. Consider whether your departure will be viewed sympathetically in the job marketplace, he said, and understand it could send a message that you’re impulsive.
Miley has advice of his own for companies: Focus on changing your environment so people don’t feel like this is their last resort. “Anyone who’s doing this is not just sitting at home (saying,) ‘You know what, I don’t like that I didn’t get this raise. I’m going to quit tomorrow,’” he said. “There’s a lot that leads up to it.”
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