Editor’s Note: Workspan will be reproducing a monthly Compensation Café blog post for the benefit of our readers and to encourage further discourse on topics vital to compensation professionals. The views expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not reflect the views of WorldatWork. New to WorldatWork? Please feel free to join the discussion in our Online Community or send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.
As an American, I am incredibly proud that our Women’s National Soccer Team has, once again, won the World Cup. As a compensation professional, I have had enough. When our country’s — and the world’s — best team in one of the truly international sports cannot be remunerated at least equal to a less-accomplished men’s team, we have the foundation of a problem that seemingly only compensation pros can fix. This article is not about facts and figures (there are links to those at the end). This is about what it takes to accomplish gender equity — and what that actually means — even after you have the facts.
As I have written before, equity is not about being equal. And as I have covered many, many times before, I am a true proponent of performance-based pay. Call it variable, call it personalized, call it incentive pay. Whatever you call it, I have made the argument that some people should get paid far more than others. This is not about women getting paid “80% of men.” This is not about politics. This is about just rewards being delivered when earned.
We have heard Sheryl Sandberg tell women to “Lean In.” We have heard Sallie Krawcheck talk about women “owning it” and working hard. We have heard about CEOs who have spent time and money fixing this problem at their companies. Psychologists have opined that women are less aggressive negotiators. Pundits in the media have told women they need to demand better pay. But what happens when you do all of these things and imbalance still exists?
One of the current excuses focuses on the men’s team bringing in more revenue. This is true if the period of measurement is properly cherry-picked. It is also not true if the date range is shorter, like an annual incentive plan or salary. But revenue is not the point of a national team. Representing the country honorably and winning as many games as possible is the goal of any national team. So, revenue is out.
Some argue the men receive greater viewership. This cannot be measured without including the fact that many are watching the other team. South American, Asian, European African and even Oceanic teams all have fans around the world. How many are watching “ours” and how many are watching “theirs”? So, viewing ratings are out.
Lastly, some argue that the gap “isn’t that big.” The size of the gap is not the issue, the existence of the gap is an issue.
I once had a boss who taught me an important phrase: “That’s a great excuse, but a terrible reason.” And excuses are all we have for the pay inequity of the most accomplished international sports team the United States has delivered in the past 40 or 50 years. Who cares if they are paid “equally”? There are no legitimate reasons they aren’t paid more than the men’s team. And, that’s the real issue for compensation professionals. This isn’t about soccer, it’s about pay.
If we cannot expect this team to be paid for their performance, how convincing can we possibly be when we claim that anyone is being paid for their performance? (I know, I know, some of you work at companies that have fixed this problem, but you are still the minority.) More importantly, if this is such a difficult thing to fix for a group of fewer than 30 women, how can most companies expect to fix pay issues for much, much larger groups?
OK, rant over. I recommend fixing this tomorrow and moving forward quickly to ensure it isn’t a problem again. There are no reasons that can’t happen, only excuses.
About the Author
First published at Compensation Café on July 9, 2019.