The director general of the BBC, Tony Hall, has responded to a letter from the public broadcaster’s female stars over its gender pay gap, acknowledging that the organization must do more to fix the problem and adding that the salary figures for next year will “look very different.”

Last week, the BBC was forced to publish the earnings and names of the stars whom it pays more than £150,000 ($195,600), revealing a startling pay gap between men and women.

Two thirds of the top earners were men, prompting a group of the BBC’s female stars to sign an open letter to Hall in which they wrote: “You have said that you will ‘sort’ the gender pay gap by 2020, but the BBC has known about the pay disparity for years. We all want to go on the record to call upon you to act now.”

Hall responded with his own letter, saying that fixing the problem has been a “personal priority” and repeating his aim of closing the gap and having a 50-50 split of on-air presenting roles by 2020. “If we can get there earlier then we will,” Hall said in his reply.

He added: “Work is already well underway across the organization to help achieve this. There will be wider consultation meetings over the next two months so we can accelerate further change in the autumn.”

The BBC chief told female stars that he values their contribution and thinking, without directly responding to their offer to meet in person.

He pointed to the BBC’s recent record on equality. “When I came back to the BBC, I said that we needed to move from having only 14% of women on local radio breakfast shows to 50%. We achieved that in two years. I also said we needed to have a 50-50 split on all presenting and lead roles by 2020. You only have to look at our drama and entertainment programs to see what can be achieved.

“But we need to do more to close the gender pay gap.  Across the BBC, our provisional figures show that the pay gap is 10% against a national average of over 18%.  I have committed the BBC to closing the gap by 2020 and if we can get there earlier then we will.”

Hall said he is confident that next year’s figures will look very different, although like-for-like comparisons will be made difficult because several of the shows the BBC stars work on will start to be made by new production arm BBC Studios, which will not have to publish talent pay.

More than 40 female BBC stars signed the open letter to Hall, including Alex Jones, Clare Balding, and Kirsty Wark. They wrote: “This is an opportunity for those of us with strong and loud voices to use them on behalf of all, and for an organization that had to be pushed into transparency to do the right thing.

“We would be willing to meet you to discuss ways in which you can correct this disparity so that future generations of women do not face this kind of discrimination.”