A renowned former BBC presenter has said there will never be equal pay for men and women “until men have babies”.
Sue MacGregor, who hosted Radio 4’s Today programme from 1984 until 2002, said that “women always end up doing most of the work” with children, which rightly take up most of their attention.
The gender pay gap at the BBC has been thrown into focus after it published details of staff earning more than £150,000.
The figures revealed that two-thirds of its top-earning stars were male.
Ms MacGregor, in an interview on the Today programme about how the show had changed, said: “My view is that there will never be totally equal pay for women until men have babies.
“They will never have equal pay because there will be times when they have to leave.
“There are extraordinary people who come back to work after two weeks or four weeks, but mostly and rightly, their attention is taken by this new little thing in their lives.”
The Today programme has been cited as representative of the wider issue in the BBC.
The corporation’s figures showed male presenters John Humphrys and Nick Robinson are paid more than £600,000 and £250,000 respectively, with its top-earning female presenter, Mishal Husain, paid more than £200,000.
Sarah Montague was the only Today presenter not to appear on the list of highly paid staff.
This prompted an awkward exchange in the studio with Ms MacGregor, who was on the programme alongside hosts Mr Humphrys and Mrs Montague.
Ms MacGregor said: “Really, Sarah should be asking this question, not me.” Mrs Montague replied, laughing: “I don’t think I should.”
Some of the BBC’s most high-profile female personalities have called on the corporation to “act now” to deal with the gender pay gap.
Presenters Clare Balding, Victoria Derbyshire and Emily Maitlis are among those who have signed an open letter to director general Tony Hall.
They urged him to “correct” the disparity over gender pay, which they say has been known “for years”.
Lord Hall said “work is already well under way” to resolve the pay gap.
Last month the BBC revealed the salaries of stars earning more than £150,000.
They showed two-thirds of its stars earning more than £150,000 are male, with Radio 2 DJ Chris Evans the top-paid on between £2.2 million and £2.25m.