We were handmaidens Esther Rantzen details sexism she faced when she first joined BBC

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BBC journalist and TV presenter Dame Esther Rantzen has opened up on the sexism she faced during her early days of working at the broadcaster, comparing her role to that of a “handmaiden”. Despite explaining how her generation of female presenters and producers contributed to “breaking the glass ceilings” in the industry, the TV legend and That’s Life! star, 81, told how the media industry still has a way to go to beat sexism and give female employees the same opportunities as men.

We made the tea and coffee, typed the letters, made the research calls, but never directed a crew

Esther Rantzen

Recalling her time at the broadcaster, Esther wrote: “I was one of the first women producer/presenters, and was there when some of the glass ceilings were broken through, in fact some of the fragments are still stuck in my skull.”

Esther told how she went straight from Oxbridge to working at the BBC as a studio manager in radio.

Going into detail about her first job, the TV personality claimed that she was “browsed upon” by other workers in the industry.

She said: “We female studio managers were browsed upon in those pre #MeToo days by directors and actors and contributors.

“It wasn’t violent or frightening, one just brushed them off like midges,” she added.

However, reflecting on her choice of occupation, she explained that she had always wanted to work in TV, describing it as “exciting and challenging”

She told how she left the job after two years and faced six months of unemployment.

Esther then revealed that she was employed by BBC Television through “nefarious” means, which included asking for an interview with BBC executive Joanna Spicer.

Working under the assistant controller of programme planning, Esther was hired as a clerk in the Eurovision department.

Despite going on to have a varied career in TV, the reporter claimed that she was “never considered for a promotion”.

She wrote: “Women’s roles were as handmaidens.

“We made the tea and coffee, typed the letters, made the research calls, but never directed a crew,” she told The Times.

However, Esther went on to explain she remained “stuck” in her career until meeting her late husband Desmond Wilcox, who ran the features department.

Branding him “gender blind”, Esther gushed over how he gave women working at the BBC the same opportunities as men.

Nevertheless, Esther went on to reflect on the “one regret” of her career, where she claimed to have “sabotaged herself”.

Revealing that she had been invited for a job as controller of BBC One, Esther said that she rejected the offer out of “fear of failing”.

Addressing the issue of equal pay for broadcasters in the industry, Esther frankly admitted to questioning the “assumption” that women are paid less than men because of sexism.

Instead, she put it down to them being “boring” compared to their male counterparts, revealing that she was paid “much more” during her presenting stint on That’s Life!.

Esther championed Miriam Margoyles for the model of women “no longer expected to be prim and proper”, before bemoaning the lack of female newsreaders over the age of 65.

Addressing the gender and age gap, the journalist said that it was no surprise that “older women” leave the TV industry to forge careers in radio instead.

Express.co.uk has contacted the BBC for comment.

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