Should Bill Wennington have been paid the same amount of money as Michael Jordan in the Chicago Bulls’ 1995-1996 season, where the Bulls won 72 of 82 games and the NBA championship? Obviously, the answer is no. Jordan was critical to the success of the Bulls, while Wennington was not. That Wennington made 1/3 of what Jordan made was not discrimination, nor was it unfair.
So why can’t we apply a similar standard to women’s soccer, and the chants for “equal pay” that have been prevalent as the U.S. team went to the championship?
Equal pay for equal work is a fine slogan, and when women are doing the same job as men they should get the same pay. But the men’s and women’s soccer players are not doing equal work. The men are paid more because men’s soccer brings in a whole lot more money than women’s soccer. That is not sexist, nor is it discriminatory. It is economic reality. In fact, women players are paid a higher percentage of the revenue for their division than men are paid.
And let’s be clear: No one really believes in “equal pay.” Just as no one would say that Wennington and Jordan should have been paid the same 24 years ago, we instinctively understand that those who provide more value to their respective employers should be paid more. Jordan was paid more because he was of greater value. Different positions at the same company are paid differently because of different skill sets and job requirements. Even people who work the same job often are not paid the same because of seniority. This rewards long-term loyalty to the company and long-term dependability.
As is so often the case, a trending hashtag is far too simplistic for the economic reality of the situation. If women’s soccer made as much money as men’s soccer and the women were still paid much less, then that would be unfair. There is no unfairness here.