Carrie Gracie, the BBC's China editor, has resigned from her role, accusing the British public broadcaster of a "secretive and illegal pay culture" and "an indefensible pay gap between men and women doing equal work."
In an open letter published on her website, Gracie accused the BBC of "breaking equality law and resisting pressure for a fair and transparent pay structure."
The high profile resignation comes after a 2017 review showed that the majority of the broadcaster's top-paid employees were men. The review showed that women made up only one third of on-air broadcasters paid 150,000 British pounds or more, and the top seven highest-paid were all men.
A subsequent pay audit found no systemic discrimination against women at the broadcaster but Gracie disputed the validity of this, noting that the BBC's US editor and Middle East editor, both male, are paid considerably more than her for the same work.
"In the past four years, the BBC has had four international editors – two men and two women," she wrote. "The Equality Act 2010 states that men and women doing equal work must receive equal pay. But last July I learned that in the previous financial year, the two men earned at least 50% more than the two women."
Gracie accused the BBC of a "divide-and-rule" strategy towards women in the wake of the review, offering female workers "'revisions' which do not guarantee equality."
The Times newspaper reported that Gracie had been offered a 45,000 British pound increase to her 135,000 British pound salary to stay in her Beijing role, which she described as "a big pay rise which remained far short of equality."
"The BBC must admit the problem, apologize and set in place an equal, fair and transparent pay structure," she wrote, adding that the corporation "is not living up to its stated values of trust, honesty and accountability."
134 female BBC employees subsequently released a statement voicing support for Gracie and demanding action to address pay inequality.
"I simply want the BBC to abide by the law and value men and women equally," Gracie wrote.
A BBC spokesperson said "fairness in pay is vital" and added "we have already conducted an independent judge-led audit of pay for rank and file staff which showed 'no systemic discrimination against women'."
Gracie has worked for the BBC since 1987 and was named the corporation's first China editor in 2013.
The fluent Mandarin speaker is understood to have left her post in Beijing last week, and intends to remain with the BBC. She is scheduled to host a flagship radio current affairs program "Today" on Monday morning.