Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Tennis Solution

Sad to say, women continue to suffer financial discrimination in the workplace. Despite decades of effort, the average female still makes only two-thirds of what a man does.

But all that may soon change. As an occasional tennis fan, I have noticed a trend that should be encouraging to women everywhere.

This is the second week of the U. S. Open held in New York City. And for women competing in that tournament, there is no question of discrimination.

For many years, women have been offered the same prize money as men at the U. S. Open. And this is not a passing fad since the Australian Open does the same and Wimbledon followed suit this year and now also gives equal prize money to both sexes.

Some might complain that equal prize money is not fair. They might point out that the top female tennis player in the world could not likely beat any male player ranked in the top 10,000.

But surely that is not the point. If we are ever to have economic parity in this world, we must set aside such quaint notions as ability and physical superiority. How can we possibly eliminate discrimination if we are always giving greater rewards to the best performers?

The folks at the U. S. Open and other major tournaments have even gone one step further to ameliorate the situation. Not only do women compete for equal prize money, they do so for less work.

Men’s matches are best of five whereas women’s are best of three. Again, some critics would say this is unfair. They would undoubtedly espouse an outmoded concept like "equal pay for work of equal value."

Again, those folks have missed the point. Women were under-rewarded for years and it is only recently that they have attained equity in the world of tennis. Even if they play fewer sets against lesser opponents for the same pay as men, isn’t that simply providing reparations for past inequities? A kind of tennis affirmative action, if you will.

Finally, the world of tennis shows how women can achieve success not only through hard work and effort but also by the sheer dint of their fashion sense. While the men mainly rely on skill and brute force, the women have realized the marketing potential in the visual aspect of the court game.

By mixing and matching and changing outfits, women on the tennis tour have been able to obtain endorsements and promotional deals that often exceed their on-court income. There are those who gripe and grouse that women’s tennis is nothing but a soft-core fashion show. But that just sounds like sour grapes. It’s a level playing surface out there and the men are free to pursue the same opportunities.

So how does all this help women at large? Well, there’s no reason the principles that apply on the tennis court can’t apply elsewhere.

First, let’s ensure women make the same money as men. Next, in order to compensate for past wrongs, let’s have women work two-thirds of a man’s workday. Finally, let’s not forget the potential additional rewards that can be earned from good fashion sense.

Personally, I’d pay extra to see women wear revealing tennis outfits at work. And I’m sure I’m not alone. If that’s what it takes to make things right, I’m definitely prepared to make the sacrifice.

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