One of the things I am interested in is why women seem (generally) to earn less than men for the same kinds of jobs in similar industries with relative standards of qualifications. I think whenever one asks questions around gender (and the roles, divisions and the influences therein), one should consider the dynamics of socialisation, historic norms and trends, politics, our biological imperatives and our psychology as a context for asking the questions. What I mean by this is, are these things, or some of these things, factors in why things the way they are? For example,  in the context of today’s blog, the question is why women tend to earn less than men in the workplace.

I thought I would look today at sport as a case study by way of illustrating this point. Like other industries women earn less than men, even in sport. Women also seem to have fewer endorsements (which probably contributes largely to their inferior earnings) and I wonder then, whether or not they have less influence as media-driven icons, role-models, heroes and pioneers of successful behaviour? I would be interested to know your views on that latter point, particularly. I wonder also, whether girls have male and female sports heroes and whether boys have both male and female role-models in sport, or whether young people stick to having icons of the same gender as them? And dependent on the answer, what kind of subliminal, psychological impact does this have on the dynamics that exist between men and women both domestically and professionally?

According to Forbes magazine, here are the top earners in sport for 2011:

  1. Tiger Woods (Golf) $62,294,116 (60 million was endorsements)
  2. Kobe Bryant (Basketball) $53, 806,250 (only 10 million in endorsements)
  3. LeBron James (Basketball) $48,500,00 (30 million in endorsements)
  4. Roger Federer (Tennis) $47,000,00 ($10 million for Nike alone)
  5. Phil Mickelson (Golf) $46.500.00
  6. David Beckham (Soccer) $40,000,00 (mostly endorsements)
  7. Christiano Ronaldo (Soccer) $38,000.00
  8. Alex Rodriguez (Baseball) $35,000,00
  9. Michael Schumacher (Racing) $34,000,00
  10. Lionel Messi (Soccer) $32,300,00

The moral of the story is if you want to be mega rich from sport become a golfer or a basketball player! Soccer, tennis and baseball are good alternatives and it helps if you are attractive and male it would seem. Looking at their earnings, the majority of these top earners’ income comes from endorsements, without exception. I think David Beckham is a good example of this. Since leaving Manchester Unites his profile as a football player (and he is a fantastic player, I am not taking away from his talent and skills) has diminished. However, his profile as a celebrity hero, icon, role-model, fashion mogul and business man has probably increased. Lucky for David he’s very appealing to the media and therefore to the masses. Did you know that Beckham gets a royalty for every pair of Adidas shoes sold with his mass-produced signature on them? No wonder he’s so rich.

The highest earning sportswoman in the world ranks number 29 on this list. She is Maria Sharapova who wins a few high-profile Tennis games but also does some fashion-designing and lends her beautiful self to endorsing big-brands (like Nike). In 2011, she earned $24.2 million, not bad for a 24 year-old. But it’s still $23,000,000 less than her male counterpart in the same sport. I know men play more sets, but not double the number! So why does Roger earn so much more than Maria, especially when she is considered the glam girl of tennis?

The answer is endorsements and sponsorships. She does a lot, but he does more; and what he does do, is more valuable. Their Nike sponsorship is a good example of this. So then the next question is, why are men used so much more in the media? And if you look at who is being endorsed it’s not always even the highest achievers in the sport (Beckham is a case in point). Sponsors are looking for personality, somebody who has influence, possibly somebody who is identifiable to the sponsor’s product or brand or image. Generally sponsors want attractive, upstanding, ethical people. I wonder how Tiger Woods still manages to stay on top?

The real gender-related questions (and possibly they are uncomfortable ones) to ponder could include: do men have more influence? Are they seen to be more authoritative in society or by the media? Is there a perception that men are more trustworthy, steady, less fickle, have more spending power? I don’t have all the answers, I am just throwing out ideas. Please share your thoughts and insights because I would love to know the answers.

What worries me, however, is this: what kind of subliminal messages have we learned and what are our children learning, from the media, which unconsciously translates in to our lives, particularly in the workplace? What are your thoughts?


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