Gender Equality and the Wage Gap

The “golden boy” of tennis, Novak Djokovic made some comments on Monday about the wage and gender gap in tennis that seem to have opened up a can of worms about the sport, gender differences and the wage gap.

A controversial topic that very few people actually want to engage in because of the fact that it may offend others. The Independent’s headline read, “Djokovic unwise to get involved in Tennis Pay Debate


So, who should get involved in this debate then? Surely, the tennis players that are caught up in the action are best suited to it. Tennis players that feel they are affected by this are probably the best people to talk about gender differences and the wage gap.

But, let’s be adults about this; sports is a business. It may not be the perfect business model, but make no mistake about it, it is very much a business; and just like any other business, the goal is to increase profits. This is done by generating as much income as possible, whilst keeping the expenses low enough, without reducing the quality of the product, or in this case, a service. In tennis, the income is ticket sales, TV viewers, sponsorship and advertising. So, who brings in more of the above?

Djokovics’ point was that male players generally bring in more viewers as compared to their female counterparts and as such they deserve more prize money. Whilst people may find this offensive or insulting, it makes perfect sense.

In 2015, there were 973 million viewers for the mens ATP tour as opposed to 395 million viewers for the 2015 WTA event and finals. So, if men are bringing in twice as much revenue into the sport, that is essentially going to be reflected in the final earnings as displayed by Djokovic earning $21.65 million in 2015 and Serena Williams earning $10.58 million in that same year.If the tournament generates more money at an event, then they will naturally have more money to give out at the end. It’s simple math.

Serena Williams has since chided with a comment about how Djokovic should explain the gender gap to his kids. She even went as far as saying that if her son and daughter started playing tennis aged three, then they deserve to get paid the same amount. Now, that just doesn’t make any sense. At least, not to me. You pay more to the person who brings in more to the sport. It’s quite similar to the film industry, the actor that brings in the viewers and increases ticket sales, is going to get paid more than his colleagues, despite working the same hours or doing the same work. This is regardless of his or her gender.

Take for example, the Avengers: Age of Ultron. Technically, all the actors did the same amount of work and some would even argue that Chris Evans character, Captain America, brought more to the screen than his colleagues. However, it was Robert Downey Jr’s character, Iron Man, that stole the show and generated more viewers and as such he got paid a cool $40 million, where as Captain America only got paid $6.9 million. Of course, the producers also go on current value of their actors based on their other work and Scarlett Johansson has consistently added value to her movies, enough that she got paid $20 million for her work in that movie.

Under Serena’s argument, perhaps all the actors should have been paid the same because they did the same amount of work. This argument makes no sense at all. Definitely, not in a business model. You’re paid for the value you add, which is only earned through the consistent hard work and effort you bring in, which essentially makes you exciting to watch and draws more crowds to the game. Is Serena Williams exciting to watch? Yes, she is.

If Serena is playing at the same time as Sergiy Stakhovsky plays, then yes, viewers are coming to watch to Serena. I get it and I accept that. However, in general, viewers are going to watch the men more than the women. That is the point that Djokovic was making.

Andy Murray has also weighed in, saying that Djokovic’s comments were, “strange and disappointing”. Really? How hard is it to understand what he said? Murray did say that women players were able to draw in strong crowds, which everyone is in total agreement with, however Djokovic said that in general, men draw in more viewers, hence they should get paid more. It’s interesting that certain media outlets consider that Djokovic was unwise to get involved in the tennis pay debate because of his views, but Murray is okay to get involved in this debate.

Let’s look at some of the statistics of the 2014 Wimbledon Tournament, where the prize money was the same for both men and women at £1’760’000. Certainly, both parties should be happy there as it is equal across the genders. Or was it?

The total number of games played by Petra Kvitova, the women’s winner was 137, which makes her average earning rate £12’847 per game. On the other side was Novak Djokovic, the men’s winner, who played a total of 276 games, more than twice the number of games that Kvitova played. Djokovic’s averaged an earning rate of £6’377 per game.

Yet, when Djokovic makes a comment in 2016 that men deserve to be paid more, everyone is ready to throw him to the gallows. But looking at the figures above, perhaps he is right.

Maybe, we’re not solving anything by talking about equality and the wage gap. Surely, it would be easier just to have a mixed tournament with gender segregation. It’ll certainly solve the problem of who gets more prize money as there will only be one winner, right?

If the top female player, Serena Williams, played with the men’s, she wouldn’t even make the top 200. I guess, that’s me being a tad unfair. Only problem is, that it already happened a couple of years ago as Serena William challenged Karsten Braasch, then ranked 203 to a game, where she was beaten quite easily. Well, there goes the argument of equal pay for equal work argument.

In order to get paid more, you have to be better than the other person, attract crowds and secure more sponsorship.

Is it easier for men right now to do that? Yes, it is!

Is it completely fair? No, probably not.

But that doesn’t mean Djokovic doesn’t have a very valid point and it also doesn’t mean we should be afraid to talk about this. Tennis players and sport-stars should get paid for the quality of their work and what they bring to the table, regardless of their gender. Attract viewers, generate more crowds, make the game exciting and your the prize money will inevitably go up.



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