A few months ago, Hilary Clinton talked about gender inequality at the Watermark Silicon Valley Conference for Women. She echoed the sentiments of Hollywood celebrities and others who have been speaking out against the disparity in pay between men and women. The issue has become front-page news again.
After Sunday’s victory by the U.S. at the Women’s World Cup, it was revealed that the total paycheck for the U.S. women’s team is $2 million, as compared to $35 million paid to the German men who won the Men’s World Cup in 2014. In fact, the American men, who were ousted in the first round of last year’s event, were paid $9 million. The salary range for the National Women’s Soccer League is reported as $6,000 to $30,000. Each team’s salary cap is approximately $200,000, significantly less than their male counterparts who operate with a salary cap of $3.1 million.
Soccer is not the only sport experiencing such equity gaps. In golf, the total prize money paid to women (LPGA) represents 20% of that paid to men for PGA events.
When it comes to basketball, the NBA maintains a salary cap that is 63 times greater than that offered to each of the women’s teams in the WNBA!
There are those who will argue that the difference should be attributed to viewer demand, not gender inequality. While we acknowledge that fewer people follow women’s sports, it is clear that other factors are coming into play. After all, while early rounds of World Cup play had difficulty filling the stadium, in the United States the Women’s World Cup final drew more viewers than either the NBA Finals, or the NHL Stanley Cup — both sports dominated by men.
Why does this matter? This is just sports, right? No – sports are big business. Professional athletes are paid to participate. The leagues and team owners expect to generate high profits. And, in these businesses, like many other industries, gender disparity exists across all positions and income levels. The gap is what matters. One can argue that sports are a version of the entertainment industry. When examining other areas of that industry, we see that the top ten highest-paid actors from 2013 made a collective $465 million dollars, compared to the $181 million earned by the ten highest-paid actresses.
Paradoxically, in the United States of America, women have overtaken men in educational attainment but not in earnings.
These gender pay gaps may not seem to be a matter of concern for many companies, which would rather not face an additional burden by bridging the wage gap between men and women. They fail to realize that they could be paying a higher price on account of employee disengagement and higher turnover from the workers, while the economy stands to lose even more when women withdraw from active workforce participation on account of such disparities. Companies which have transparent systems and merit-based compensation would benefit in the long run by engaging the workers and motivating them to perform better.
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