Matters of Money, Maternity, Tennis and Equal Pay
Question one: Starting July 3rd, on a telecast aired all over the world, millions of people will witness two groups of workers. One group will perform up to 40% less work than their contemporaries at a lower level of ability and earn less revenue for their industry, yet will be paid equally. Journalist, feminist and much of the general public have a name for it. Equality! Name the event.
Answer: The Wimbledon tennis championship, which in 2007 caught up with the rest of the major tennis tournaments by paying women the same amount as men. The fact that equality in in the 2007 tournament, meant equal pay for the 17 game women’s final with the 52 games male championship was largely ignored, as have the longer men’s finals in subsequent Wimbledon’s. This is true even of 2009 finals, where the men’s championship lasted 76 games and the women’s lasted 21.
Prior to the change in the Wimbledon prize money, American journalists observed, that in the United States some women’s championship finals were out drawing men’s (aided by the large amount of top American women players). Meaning, the American media always on the guard for ethnocentrism, argued that because in our country people watched a women’s championship in an event shown all over the world, women should be paid as much as men for a tournament in England.
Feminists have pointed out over and over how women have been historically limited in sports participation because they were considered too weak to handle the rigors of physically demanding athletics. They still harken back to the dark days when women’s basketball required them to play on only one side of the basketball court. While feminists recoil at this past horror, they ignore the reality seen all over the world of women playing less sets than men in major tournament’s. Thus people all over the world are given the erroneous information that women don’t have the endurance to play five sets of tennis like men do. In addition, feminist’s complain about the greater air time given to men’s sports compared to women’s on television. Obviously, playing equal amount of sets would mean more television air time for women.
A legitimate reason for women not playing these longer matches could be that that women in general may be more susceptibility to injuries than male players. But if this is true, why should they be paid the same as men? Certainly, the wear and tear of these longer matches has shortened some men’s careers. Why should men have to train for longer matches and put greater stress on their bodies, yet receive no greater pay? Whatever happened to the idea of equal pay for equal work?
The announcement that the world’s greatest female tennis player Serena Williams is pregnant, brings up a second question. Name a job where a women can be put at a completive disadvantage due to pregnancy, yet feminists ignore it. The answer: Women’s tennis. In fact, feminist’s express little concern involving maternity leave issues in any professional women’s sport.
A pregnancy exemption is provided by the “Special Ranking” rule. Under this rule, players are eligible if they have experienced injures or pregnancies. After returning from leave, the players keep their prior ranking for 8 regular tournaments, and two of the four grand slams for a 12 month period. Prior to 2015 they were only required to be allowed participation in one grand slam event. In contrast, under the family leave act, all eligible workers retain their previous work status.
There is one single paragraph about pregnancy in the “Special Ranking” section. It notes that unlike injured players who have up to two years leave, women who give birth have 12 additional months. This contrasts with the family leave law, where pregnant women are mandated albeit shorter, but equal time and in fact overall, take more leave of a longer duration.
Is 12 months a long enough time to make a comeback after pregnancy. When one considers the range of health experience after child birth, the limit in both tournaments it applies to, and the limited time period, for many women, I think not.
Serena William’s pregnancy brought back the story of Kim Clysters great comeback after her pregnancy. Clysters came back to tournament play 18 months after giving birth. This is despite unlike less accomplished players, she had the status and money to work with top trainers, top coaching and to play in exhibitions with top players to prepare her for her return to the tour.
In reality, tennis could extend maternity leave without financial cost. This is not true in the regular work world, where equal time is the law. Women can be more expensive, since more women are likely to take Family Leave and for a longer time. Of course, this is not relevant in women’s tennis with all the players being female. In addition, many jobs change with technology. The game of tennis remains the same. Many jobs become abolished, plus people who take time off from a job, sometimes find they no longer have the required skills needed in their profession. Companies have to retain them due to parental leave laws. In the meritocratic world of tennis, this is not a problem. Despite this, feminist’s and the media are mum on these issues.
Something else was missing from the coverage of Serena William’s pregnancy. When a known top women employee takes off for pregnancy, we hear from feminists and the media in general, about America being the only industrial country without paid pregnancy leave. Not this time. This is true, despite the fact that many players are from countries where they could have taken some of the world’s best paid maternity leave, if only they had chosen another profession.
There is good reason for the silence regarding paid maternity leave. It means we don’t have to address why we should have universal paid maternity leave, when we don’t even have it in an all-female workforce. Feminism focuses on being victims of men, not about helping women. When something doesn’t fall into that paradigm, they have little interest in it. Rather than anger the Women’s Tennis Association, and risk the negative reaction of players who don’t want children, they leave the issue alone.
In reality, paid maternity leave in tennis is more valuable for women than in the great majority of professions. Unlike say a computer programmer who can search for jobs with companies that provide paid maternity leave, tennis players have no viable alternative. In many professions women may need little time off if pregnant. In tennis, at some point in her pregnancy a woman would be able to do her job. Most importantly I believe, sports careers are short and unlike most jobs, in tennis, women’s fertility corresponds with peak earning years.
How many women avoid pregnancy or have an abortion for fear of being able to make a viable comeback after pregnancy? How many women after having a child, feel that under the current rules a comeback to tennis isn’t feasible? Because of the lack of attention, who knows?
One hundred and twenty eight players participate in Wimbledon, while 300 players are eligible for the “Special Ranking” provision. Thus for many lower ranked players, the higher pay for awarded at Wimbledon is meaningless. Even baseball, with its huge salaries and long off season has a short paid paternity leave. Here’s a thought, take the money earned by men but awarded to women in Grand Slam tournaments and give it to lower ranked female players. It might increase the talent pool.
Matters of Money, Maternity, Tennis and Equal Pay
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