There are a couple of arguments that I have explored both with passion and intellect. “Is the world running out of oil?” is one of them. “Is the globe really warming?” is another. And when new analysis is available, I read it. This weekend, I got new data on an argument for equal pay for men’s and women’s soccer, and I have, again, changed my opinion.
From the perspective of a business owner and CEO, I watched a couple of outspoken women argue for equal pay, and they based their argument on some false tenants, but they also had a credible point that justified action. Granted, I can concede that some of their arguments were outright lies, but they had one rock-solid point that no one could deny.
The US Women’s national team deserves more pay because they consistently win big tournaments, and the men do not. When it is time to put your money where your mouth is, the women deliver, and the men don’t. That was their most credible position; it just popped like a balloon.
Fortunately, there is enough in common between the two sports to compare them in many ways accurately. They use the same field of play, game length, rules, and balls and nets. As such, the points in favor of equal pay for equal work were easy to debunk. In the men’s game, the ball moves faster. The shots are harder. The men run more miles in a game than the women. Those are facts that no radical feminist in favor of equal pay has been able to unwind.
The facts of biology speak for themselves, and they show up in ticket sales. Men run faster, jump higher and strike harder than women. All the chatter about the women working just as hard isn’t credible. They aren’t valid points if you actually measure the skill in question.
And more people go to men’s games than women’s games, especially at the professional level when skill disparity is most apparent.
But the women’s argument that we win and the men don’t was powerful and credible. Even without the other points they were trying to make, there was a justification for change. Ultimately, the decision was made to pool the men’s and women’s money together and share it more equitably. When it was implemented, most nations thought it to be a bad business decision, although many of the women’s teams from other countries wanted the same thing for their nation, as they saw the financial benefit to women. However, the governing bodies of the rest of the world’s nations didn’t have the point of contention that the US did. Their countries’ men DID win a lot, and their women didn’t win like the US women did. In essence, the other countries had no credible points to their argument other than to point a finger and say, “Look what the US did. We want to do that, too!”
Lurking the background of the argument that the US women were desperate to get the light off of was third-party evaluation. FIFA is the world’s governing body, and its standards do not favor women. But why would they? FIFA generates the money; it isn’t the players, teams, and coaches that make the money. It is participation in events that FIFA organizes that generates revenue. Imagine a salesperson who only got paid for a system of quotes her generated, not for the amount of money he brought into the company. He wouldn’t last.
This weekend, not only did the women fail, but the net revenue that the men and women made are publicly available for us to make an apples-to-apples comparison using the global standard for football success: performance at the world cup. For my purposes, I am blessed to have identical outcomes on the field to compare. In this last world cup, both the US men’s and women’s teams made it to the round of 16 teams and were knocked out. To translate, both teams had equivalent levels of performance during the last iteration of global testing. Let’s drop my perception of success and failure and let’s look at this from a business standpoint.
The owner of the payout contracts is FIFA, the entity deemed to be the governing body of soccer. FIFA is a business, not just a governing body. It was the primary beneficiary of the media rights contracts that paid for the world cup, and they shared a portion of that money with the federations who made it to the finals. They kept the rest. As a business, they focus on wins and losses in the bank account at least as much, if not more, than they count on wins and losses on the pitch.
According to the Sporting News, the women’s team earned $1.87 million from FIFA for their efforts.
For the EXACT same level of performance at the last world cup, the men’s team earned $13 million from FIFA for their effort. Scrap your definition of effort and just look at the pay-for-performance model in place here. The two teams aren’t the same by any remaining metric. And don’t criticize pay-for-performance in sports, as that is our agreed-upon model.
And we are now supposed to believe that the right thing to do is to split the total evenly between men and women.
As a former CEO, I imagine how I would feel if a salesman came into my office, arguing about pooling his poor commissions with the top salesman’s commission and expecting me to agree to split them evenly. Not only would he be an idiot to ask, but I might also suggest he revisit his definition of fair and perhaps learn to make peace that his pay is, in fact, based on his performance and not that of the group. I might even suggest he move to a world where competition isn’t a part of the equation, like many people think is appropriate when it comes to compensation in men’s and women’s sports. Go be a nurse or something where you get paid the same, whether the patient lives or dies.
From a business perspective, no sane businessman nor well-managed business seeking to remain competitive is going to table pay-for-performance and call it appropriate. The women’s soccer program lost its legs in the argument for fair pay and should not expect us to give them a wheelchair, preferential seating, and the next award for dramatic acting at the Oscars. Their bread and butter pitch is now burnt toast.