By Dr. Jason Haynes, Senior Lecturer in Sports Law, University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados
The 2022 ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup in New Zealand has thus far been nothing short of electric. From despairing dives, to scintillating shots, to stunning catches, to dramatic finishes, the 2022 ICC Women’s World Cup will, undoubtedly, go down in history as one of the most spectacular cricketing events in the history of ICC organised championships.
Despite the undeniable increase in the spectator following of women’s cricket, the increased broadcasting of games globally, and significant infrastructural and human resource investment to develop the sport amongst women in the last decade, the historic lack of parity in pay between women and men remains an insidious and profoundly depressing feature of women’s participation in cricket, and sport, more generally.
In fact, in the lead up to the 2022 Women’s Cricket World Cup, while the ICC announced a 75 per cent increase in prizemoney, the total on offer is US$6.5m less than the men's event in 2019. Whereas, in the 2019 Men’s ODI World Cup, US$10m was distributed as prizemoney, the women participating in the 2022 World Cup are due to receive just about US$3.5m in total, which works out to be US$1.32m for the Champions; US$600,000 for the runner’s up; and US$300,000 for the semi-finalists. By contrast, the Champions of the 2019 men’s ODI World Cup received US$4m; the runners up US$2m; and the semi-finalists US$800,000.
Although the 75 per cent increase in prizemoney for the women participating in this year’s ODI World Cup is clearly a big improvement on other iterations of ICC events, it does not nearly represent a big enough step to bridge the glaring disparity in pay between female and male cricketers.
Whilst pay disparity, linked to the immutable characteristic of sex, is not unique to cricket, the time is rife for a considered reflection on how pay disparity in the workplace significantly disadvantages women, who are already prejudiced by virtue of other forms of intersecting discrimination in the workplace, and care responsibilities in the home.
The failure to honour women’s prowess in sport through equal pay in the same way as we would otherwise honour men’s prowess is symptomatic of both a sporting, and wider societal problem: the devaluation of women’s worth on the altar of patriarchy cloaked as “balance sheet considerations.”
Indeed, the traditional explanation for the lack of parity in pay between men and women in sport has been that men’s sport tends to generate significantly more revenue than women’s sport, such that it is only fair that men benefit more from said revenues. What this explanation fails to account for, however, is that intrinsic value of work is not solely determined by revenue considerations, as we have seen in the family law context where courts have increasingly placed value on women’s invisible work in the home, namely caring responsibilities. The fact that women’s work in the home may not be distinctly quantifiable in monetary terms and may not attract the gravitas that men’s work does, does not mean that women’s work is inherently of lesser value.
The same argument can be advanced in the sporting context; the fact that men’s sports generate significantly more revenue, in general, than female sports is not indicative of women’s prowess in sport being less valuable than men’s.
The balance sheet justification for pay disparity is also bereft of consideration of the fact that it is a combination of historical exclusion, stigma and discrimination associated with women’s participation in sport that has, in part, resulted in women’s sporting prowess not receiving equal recognition as men’s.
In addition, it is instructive to note that the development of women’s sport has been historically stymied by the reticence of investors, linked to flawed perceptions about women’s lack of consistency in the workplace, to invest in initiatives that provide girls and women with opportunities to excel at sport. These women and girls are now being penalized via pay disparity, through no fault of their own, for not having as many opportunities as men to excel at their vocation, and by parity of reasoning for not generating as much revenue as men who have had significantly more opportunities. Interestingly, there have been over 4,000 men ODI matches since the early 1970s, but only just over 1,000 women ODI matches.
Furthermore, balance sheet justifications for the gender pay gap in sport fail to account for the many intersecting systemic barriers which women face, both in society and in sport, which impinge on their ability to achieve professional status.
Amongst other things, female athletes face unsupportive, sexist and even misogynistic teachers, friends, partners, and coaches and wider societal influences which impede their progress in sport. Women in sport are also ten times more likely to be abused, sexually and otherwise, by their coaches and/or other superiors, which again stand as stumbling blocks that prevent them from achieving their fullest potential. In this context, therefore, for women to achieve professional status in sport is truly a remarkable feat, which must be honoured with, amongst other things, equal pay.
In the final analysis, having regard to the United States Soccer’s recent payment of US$24m to US national female footballers and their promise to ensure parity of pay in future, it is certainly arguable that it is not that sporting bodies do not have the resources to pay female athletes; but rather, it is fundamentally a question of whether men, who are the principal leaders of most sporting bodies, value female athletes enough to afford them what they truly deserve: equal pay for equal work.
Regrettably, until such time that women, and society at large, take a stand against pay disparity, we will continue to hear the now banal sentiments of ICC Chief Executive, Geoff Allardice, that world cricket is "coming from a long way back" towards pay equity but “we're not there yet.”