“Two-thirds of the highest paid individuals in the BBC are men, and of roles and positions which employ both men and women, men generally get paid a higher salary for the same work!” He mumbled with a sense of great satisfaction. Whether he was satisfied with such one-sided statistics or because he was savouring the aroma of a thirty year VSOP (his fifth), was difficult to tell, and to be honest, if you knew the man, he wouldn’t really care.
Dragging his gaze from the hypnotic colours of the crystal tumbler; its demand drawing him deeper into promises of oblivion, he fixed a not-to-focused glance on me and queried “So, bad press then? Who actually does these wretched studies? Do they go around asking people how much they earn? Do the men earning more than the women then volunteer such information? Are they not actually happy making money?”
To be honest I thought the questions to be rhetorical, and as I hadn’t been around asking all the people who may or may not have been asked how much money they earn, asking them if they’d been asked how much money they earn, I couldn’t have answered him if I had wanted to... which I didn’t.
“Well, the press is in an uproar, an absolute uproar!” He grumbled in a half indignant, but mostly uncaring fashion, as he nipped away at the contents of his tumbler; you could actually see his lazy eye wandering over the starched table linen towards where the decanter still held at least half a bottle of the booze. The red/gold glitter from the fluid, illuminated by the diffuse mellow lights, danced and played across his dark eyes and their yellowed whites.
“No, wait... that’s not what I meant. The press is all over it, but it’s the bloody women who are all up in a snit about it. Thought they’d gotten all that out of their systems with bra burning and all that! Ha, burn your bra... like I’d take a lighter to my underpants; what was the bloody point in all that?!” As he guffawed to himself for a while I began to wonder if he’d actually forgotten he’d summoned me.
“Ah, yes... where was I? What’s to be done then? I pay you to advise, so advise?”
“Well, sir, there are several possible ways we can approach this. We could issue an apology and offer to increase the women’s wages to those of the men.” I began.
He broke in before I could begin with any of the costs such a bold enterprise would entail. “Ha! You are a card! Where would we find so much money? We’d only be attacked again for laying off so many lay-about office workers in order to find that kind of money!
“Another option would be to cut the salaries of the men who earn significantly more than the women for doing the same work, and to employ more women in higher ranking positions to equalise the apparent imbalance?” Again, he snorted into his glass, which apparently never left his lips, but whether to exemplify his indignation or amusement or simply to create some stirrings of aroma, it was very difficult to tell.
“Don’t be ridiculous!” Was all the reply that apparently deserved.
“There is one further option, sir. Several of the highest paid men in the industry, many of them well past retirement age, with sufficient funds to not notice the loss, have volunteered to take pay cuts. They will willingly lower their wages to that of their female peers as a show of solidarity.” He almost managed to drag his eyes from the bottle, and a quivering hand, just beginning to grasp vaguely towards the decanter, paused in its craving motion for the briefest of moments.
“Oh yes, I love it! The women will see it as a sign of sacrifice, they love all that kind of nonsense, the press will paint these men as heroes, they will get extra press, their ratings will soar, and we shall even save a little money in the meantime; let’s go with that one!” His hand moved purposefully for the decanter and I knew the conversation was all but over.
I did however, manage to introduce one more thought into the perfect scenario already fixed in him mind “But sir, don’t you think it’s a little obvious?”
He paused... fingertips floating inches from their target and fixed me with the closest thing to a steely gaze he could manage these days “Don’t be such an idiot; get it done!”