Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Posts Tagged ‘sexism

Hope Solo and misguided legal actions

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It appears that Hope Solo is up to her old tricks again: According to a recent entry on her blog, she is initiating a federal law-suit to get “equal” pay. This in a continuation of an earlier suit ([1]).

These are highly unfortunate developments, which risk setting a damaging precedence, should the suit be successful, removing or weakening the performance aspect of remuneration and risking more “Title IX”-style problems. And that is just in sports: If and when such procedures catch on in the overall economy, there is no telling what the results could be. (I have a number of older texts on related problems, including [2], [3], [4].)

For want of new details, I have briefly looked into the original situation. Going by [1], the (then) complaint alleged that “[t]here are no legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for this gross disparity of wages, nor can it be explained away by any bona fide seniority, merit or incentive system or any factor other than sex”.

I have already discussed much of this matter in an older post on remuneration in Swedish soccer, and I will not re-iterate the arguments made there. However, I do explicitly note that audience figures are similarly poor among women compared to men in the U.S.: For instance, Wikipedia on MLS attendance and NWSL attendance shows that the MLS for 2017 had a total of 8,270,187 spectators over 374 games, with a mean attendance of 22,113—while the NWSL had 609,960 spectators over 120 games, with a mean attendance of 5,083. In other words, less than quarter per game and less than a third of the games…* (For further reference, a single 17-game round of the Bundesliga often exceeds the above season’s total of the NWSL.) The (international) situation in the men’s World Cup and the women’s World Cup is less extreme, but has the same tendency. For instance, the last four men’s tournaments have averaged roughly 50 thousand spectators at 64 games each. The best women’s average was 37,944 over 32 games in 1999; the highest overall attendance was in 2015 after the number of games had been pushed to 53—but with a mere 26,029 in average attendance.

*A better comparison would take total revenue and/or ticket prices into account, but, with the large difference in spectators, the research would not pay off—even a considerably higher ticket price for women’s games would not make up for this difference. To boot, chances are that the men’s tickets are more expensive due to greater demand; to boot, any difference in ticket price would be reduced by secondary game-visit costs, like overpriced hot-dogs.

The lawsuit appeared to claim that the women’s team would actual earn more money for the U.S. soccer federation than the men’s team. Here I have two objections:

Firstly, if that is the case, the women should have an excellent bargaining position and their first move should be to negotiate (see also an excursion below)—not sue. There might or might not be some deranged Old White Man somewhere who takes a perverted pleasure in keeping women down, but, contrary to Feminist propaganda, this is a rare case indeed. Motivations like a wish for more money and more power are far, far more common, and those who can give them what they want can get something in return. Starving the golden goose is just stupid. However, do not expect to get things without negotiating for them: Big organizations rarely work that way; and there are plenty of both Old White Men and Young Black Women who are more than happy to underpay everyone who lets them get away with it.

Secondly, the claim is at best misleading, as can be suspected from the above. I had a look* at a PDF-report with official numbers that is linked in [1]:

*A detailed interpretation might require more background information or more detailed numbers, and I make reservations for errors of interpretation.

Generally, it is misleading to base comparisons of a single year and a greater time stretch has to be considered: The numbers for each team can vary considerable based on the external circumstances of the year, as when the men’s World Cup in 2014 (fiscal year* 2015) increased the numbers for the men in that year and the women’s World Cup in 2015 (fiscal year 2016) did the same for women in that year. Furthermore, there is often a dependency on short-term success, which also make any short-term comparisons misleading. What e.g. if the U.S. women had missed their mark in 2015 the way they did in the Olympics in 2016?** Indeed, the great budgeted numbers for the women’s team in 2017 include an “Olympic Victory Tour” (chart 2; chart 3 for the men). I do not know what the later real games and numbers were, but I do know that the U.S. Women did not win the preceding Olympics, making this “Olympic Victory Tour” a budgetary distortion.***

*Unless referring to a championship, references to years will be fiscal years below.

**Note that I am not arguing that their success should be discounted—they did win and do deserve the credit (and any bonuses they might have negotiated in advance). What I do argue is that differences from one tournament to another (especially, when combined with the question of what tournaments are available in the given year) make it important to be cautious with prognoses for the future. They won in 2015, but flopped in 2016. The German men won the World Cup in 2014 (and were Olympic runner-ups in 2016), but were last in their group in 2018. Keep in mind particularly that there is always an element of chance involved and that even the best team of the tournament is unlikely to win it without at least some luck.

***Interestingly, per game, the men’s budget had both higher average attendance and higher average ticket-prices, making it reasonable with higher per game rewards for the men. (Per game rewards appearing to be one of the main bones of contention. I make no claim as to how much higher would be reasonable at this stage, however.) Note that the overall numbers are further distorted by the greater number of “away” games for the men.

Further, the numbers are not that flattering for the women. True, page 68 shows a projected income from “Men’s National Team Events” of 21,047,216 for 2016 compared to 23,570,326 + a World Cup 3,234,600 for the women—leaving the women almost six million ahead.* However, actual numbers for 2015 show 14,867,576 + 12,892,819 for the men, reaching higher than the women in their World Cup year—and the overall for the women in 2015 is a mere 3,160,386… 2014 tells a similar story—men clearly ahead. The budget for 2017 would show women ahead again, but here we have the influence of the “Olympic Victory Tour” (cf. above). (No other years are listed.) The tentative** conclusion is that the men’s team brings more money and/or that we have to wait and see what happens with future revenue, before judging*** what would, in some sense, be fair.

*There are some other entries with no obvious sex relation, including “International Games”. I have not attempted to investigate their nature.

**A longer time series would be interesting and could alter this conclusion.

***But not before negotiating: The time for the team to hit the negotiating table, and to do so hard, was immediately after the 2015 gold.

It is true, however, that the men’s team also has had higher expenses (cf. page 71), implying that its profitability relative the women’s team might not have been as good as the revenue indicated. Then again, in the budget for 2017, this is changed and the women have about five million more in expenses… (Likely, the “Olympic Victory Tour” again.) To boot, the demands by Solo et al. would drive the women’s expenses even higher.

A point where the women’s team might* have an argument is the area of publicity and sponsorships. However, if so: (a) The continuation of this is contingent on continued success. (b) The individual players should already have been benefactors through their own sponsorship deals. (c) The better solution would be to generally pay out more of “central” sponsorships to the players instead of fattening the federation. (d) If there really is a long-term effect, this should manifest in better attendance numbers, which can then be used for negotiations and/or will lead to semi-voluntary increases by the federation. (e) Strong publicity and sponsorship effects are a perfect base for negotiations—so negotiate.

*This is not unambiguously clear from the parts of the report I have read.

Excursion on Hope Solo:
As for Hope Sole herself, I have done a bit of reading today, and note that, in addition to her dubious legal actions and payment stance, she is alleged to have badly physically abused several relatives (and threatened police officers, and whatnot), and has been referred to as a “piece of work” by Pia Sundhage* (re-quoted through the New York Times). She has been mentioned on this blog before ([5]), that time in her defense. While I stand by my defense in that issue,** I have at least heard the claim that her suspension was based more on prior behavior than the incident at hand. (But this should be taken with a grain of salt, considering that misrepresentations by the other party are not unusual.) The bearing of this on her payment case is at most circumstantial; however, it is interesting how often Feminist activists (and similar people) have similarly shady behavior patterns and personalities.

*In addition to being a former long-time U.S. national-team trainer with considerable exposure to Solo, she was also one of the best player’s in the world in the early years of women’s soccer. The latter implies both that she is not a bureaucrat talking down a player without understanding her situation and that she is likely to have encountered more unwarranted sexual discrimination than Solo.

**Even assuming that the secondary, vague, allegations are true and refer to something less forgivable: Prior behavior might very well have an influence on the degree of punishment; however, it must not make things illegal that are legal for someone with a better background. (Excepting cases where there is a strong reasonable connection and where the consequences are public knowledge well in advance, e.g. that someone convicted for a felony might be forbidden to own a gun. Even here, however, it is better to err on the side of “too little”.)

Excursion on negotiation:
Should negotiation fail, we have to consider the “why”. It could, for instance, be that the parties involved simply see the world so differently that no mutually satisfactory agreement is possible, in which case the sides need to consider their alternatives (up to and including a refusal to play, in the current case). It could be that the party requesting a change does not make its argument effectively, in which case it might hire a professional negotiator (or a better one, should one already be present). It could be that the one side holds out in the belief that the other side will cave, and then the other side needs to prove the opposite.

It could also be that the one side has a so disproportionately better situation that it can more-or-less dictate terms—which might very well be the case here, and would be well in line with some of my other writings (e.g. in [5]). If, as here, this party is a sports organization dictating to its athletes, however, we have another and more urgent matter—making the organization a tool for the athletes, not the athletes tools for the organization. Focus on that and the issue of negotiation will resolve it self; neglect it and other actions are tantamount to Sisyphus rolling his stone up the hill. (Had this been Solo’s complaint, she would have had my support.)

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Written by michaeleriksson

August 30, 2018 at 5:55 pm

Swedish gender nonsense and bandy

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I have written about the absurd Swedish take on equality (in general) and equality in sports (in particular) in the past. (For example in [1].) The last few weeks, the sports police have been at it again—with what might take the cake:

The fact that the women’s bandy world championship is played on the ice of a lake instead of in a rink is proof that women are mistreated, men and bandy are sexist, or whatnot…

Well:

  1. Even if the decision was wrong, this is not necessarily proof of anything. I am not privy to the decision-making process, but it could quite easily have been something along the line of the international federation giving the championships to China to expand the sport* (cf. below) and the Chinese simply not having a rink** suitable for a world championship (or having promised to build one, only to find themselves out of money). For that matter, they could have wanted to give an authentic (cf. below) introduction to the sport. If worst comes to worst, chances are that any sexism involved was restricted to one or several individuals—nothing more, nothing less. Moreover, in as far as sex played a role, it is very likely to have been in an indirect manner, based on the state of the men’s and women’s bandy (cf. below) or the expected costs and earnings from the event.

    *China only even having a national federation since 2014…

    **Note that the playing field in bandy is more like a soccer field than an ice-hockey field/rink, making the setup that much more resource intense and ruling out the use of many existing artificial ice areas, including typical hockey and ice-skating rinks.

  2. What is wrong with playing on a lake in the first place? It does seem a little unprofessional and there is chance that e.g. the element of chance is increased—but not to a degree that it would have a major impact on the results (considering the state of the women’s sport; cf. below). There are, obviously, differences to playing in a proper rink, but they are not earth-shatteringly large—and the differences present will likely introduce complications of a type that, say, skiers and golfers have to deal with every single time. That games are played outside is the rule either which way—unlike with ice-hockey, question like “with or without a roof” are of little relevance. For that matter, bandy is usually considered a sport for people willing to put up with quite a lot from nature, notably several hours of sometimes biting cold; and to complain about playing on a lake does not seem to be in this traditional spirit.

    Moreover, a great many men’s games have been played on lakes over the years; and for a long time it might even have been the most common setting. (No matter whether rinks are more common today.)

    Considering the low number of expected spectators, it might even have been a better experience for them than using a rink…

  3. In terms of participation, money, popularity, and whatnot, bandy is small sport even among men—with the exception of Sweden (and possibly Sweden’s closest neighbors). For the women, the situation is far worse, as is demonstrated by the medal table in the world championships:

    After the current and 9th championships (played this week), we have little Sweden a dominant leader with 8 Golds and 1 Silver—followed by Russia with 1 Gold and 8 Silvers… The Bronze medals are more even, divided between Norway at 5 and Finland at 4, but still show the limited depth of the sport. Even the 4th places are limited, being divided between Canada and the aforementioned Norway and Finland.

    This year, we saw a whole of 8 teams participating—after the federation failed to find the planned 12 teams willing and able to compete… The medals went Sweden–Russia–Norway (surprise!), with Sweden and Russia being entirely unthreatened in all games but two—the ones they played each other (winning one each). Norway beat Finland a convincing 5–2 in the Bronze game and USA 4–0 in a group game. In its other three games, this Bronze winner was destroyed, losing once to Russia (5–0) and Sweden (9(!)–0) in the group phase and a semi-final re-match against Sweden (5–0).

    The international standard is so low (as is often the case with small sports) that the two groups were deliberately lop-sided to keep things “exciting”. In fact, this to the degree that the real championship arguably consisted of just the four teams from Group A, who took three automatic semi-final places and all three medals, and was a hair’s breadth from taking all four and the fourth place to boot.

    Hair’s breadth? Well, the fourth placer in group A, USA, who failed to score a single goal or winning a single point, played the utterly dominant winner of group B, Finland, for the fourth semi-final—and lost after a penalty shot-out. Finland was then taken down 4–0 by runner-up Russia in its semi-final.

    Utterly dominant? Well, if you think that some of the previous wins were large, consider that Finland went 9–0, 10–0, and 27(!!!)–0 against respectively Estonia, China, and Switzerland.

    Moreover, looking at the sum of 19 games played, only 5 (!) saw the losing team even score a goal—and only three were won with less than three goals. (Specifically, the two Sweden–Russia games and the Finland–USA game.)

    With these differences, I would be unsurprised if the women’s Swedish championships has better depth and (outside the two games between Sweden and Russia) quality than these, as it were, world championships—and there are likely hundreds of men’s soccer teams in Germany alone that play on a higher international level than eight-placer Switzerland…

  4. As for spectators? The Wikipedia page currently links to four match reports. One, home-team China’s first game, show a whopping 350 spectators; the other three 50* each… While this might (or might not) have improved in later games, I feel confident that the grand-total of (physically present) spectators for the entire tournament would have been seen as a fiasco had they occurred in a single game of the men’s soccer Bundesliga. (Unless, that is, the Chinese regime decided to force participation during the later stages…)

    *Some rounding or rough estimation might be involved.

For the above, I have drawn data from the Wikipedia pages on bandy, the 2018 World Championship, and Women’s Bandy World Championship; as well as the Swedish videotext* to supplement the (currently still) incomplete data for 2018 on Wikipedia.

*Note that content here is not preserved in the long-term. Readers should not expect this link to deliver the right contents for more than a few days; however, the same contents should appear on Wikipedia in due time.

Written by michaeleriksson

January 13, 2018 at 11:55 pm

PC annoyances

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One of the great annoyances and proofs of human stupidity is the many, many, many news items where poor reasoning or ignorance is used to support a politically correct agenda (be it by the journalist or the politicians, whatnot, reported on). I regularly find myself keeping a browser tab open, because I want to write something about a particularly idiotic item—but before I get around to it a week has passed and I have ten open tabs. (At which point I usually resign myself and just close them.)

Particularly common problems include:

  1. Variations of the 77-cents-on-the-dollar myth, which has been debunked for years*. Recently, e.g., the video-text of the German ARD reported that Germany is about to introduce transparency rules implying that women should have a (presumably asymmetric) right to find out what men in similar positions in their companies earn.

    *Cf. e.g. several earlier posts.

    A major problem with this is that just having the same (let alone a “similar”) position is not that strong an indication of what someone earns or should earn. Other criteria include actual performance, experience, education, how long the position has been held, and (very notably) negotiating* skill and tactic.

    *It could be argued that this is a bad thing, but as is it is a fact of life. I also suspect that it would be hard to abolish without risking a system where everyone is payed based on purely formal criteria, e.g. years in the company.

    The last item is particularly interesting, because men* tend to be more aggressive negotiators and are relatively more likely to turn down offers based on money—while increasing the risk of periods of unemployment and rejections. We can now have scenarios where four out of four women are hired at X (in some currency, for some time interval), while out of four more aggressively negotiating men three are hired at 1.1X and the fourth goes unemployed. The women find out that the three men earn more (while being ignorant of or disregarding the fourth), demand a raise with charges of sexual discrimination, and we end up with four women and three men earning 1.1X and one unemployed man… One group takes the high risk road for a higher reward and the other group receives the same reward without taking the risks… (With many variations, e.g., that is possible that everyone would have gotten 1.1X at a given company—but that only the men asked for it. Negotiations are there because the employers want to pay the least amount they can get away with—not because they want to systematically give women less money. I have even been asked outright what the smallest offer was that I would accept…)

    *Here and elsewhere I take is as granted that we speak of group differences, relative probabilities, and so on. That individual variations exists is a given and will not be spelled out.

    The first item (performance) is also of of extreme importance: In software development, my own field of practice, the difference in output and quality can be so large that it would often be easily justifiable to pay the one developer twice as much as the other. (Unfortunately, the decision makers are usually under the very unfortunate misconception that software developers are fungible and differences of that size are far rarer than they should be. Still, that someone earns 10, 20, 0r 30 % more is not automatically a sign of discrimination, skill at negotiation, or any non-performance factor—quite often it is a result of better performance.)

  2. Variations of women-are-not-successful-in-technology-due-to-discrimination.

    The truth is simply this: Men and women have different aptitudes and interests. Men more often end up as e.g. software developers and women as e.g. kindergarten teachers because that matches their natural preferences. Too boot, the women I have encountered so far in software development have only very rarely broken into the top half of the pack; off the top of my head, I recall no single woman who broke into the top quarter. (But I stress that my sample is too small to make statements about the overall population of female developers with certainty.)

    A particularly idiotic example is reporting on Facebook’s diversity program (which I originally encountered in a German news source which just parrots the original without any critical thinking).

    Facebook wants to diversify, but this “has been hampered by a multi-layered hiring process that gives a small committee of high-ranking engineers veto power over promising candidates”. Of course those pesky white men are at it again: “The engineering leaders making the ultimate choices, almost all white or Asian men, often assessed candidates on traditional metrics like where they attended college, whether they had worked at a top tech firm, or whether current Facebook employees could vouch for them”.

    What makes this particularly outrageous is the mention of “white or Asian men” in manner that very obviously is intended to imply that “white or Asian men” is the actual problem. It is not: The criteria used by these “white or Asian men” are sound and justified. The problem here is not the decision making process—it is the lack of suitable candidates. If (!) there is a problem here it is not with Facebook but with earlier stages: Facebook cannot be faulted if too few members of minority groups have gone to Stanford and MIT. This article* makes creating diversity a higher priority than finding the right person for the job at hand—an absurd attempt to create equality of outcome through destroying equality of opportunity. Notably, there is not one shred of proof presented that the decision makers would discriminate based on e.g. ethnicity—but if the lead of the article was followed, they would be forced to do so!

    *There are a number of problems with the article that I will not analyze in detail, but most of them boil down to observing result X and concluding Y without regard for other alternatives. For instance, it is true that using school as a criterion at the last stage of the process, rather than the first stage, is a bad idea—but if school has not been considered appropriately in the earlier stages and the sensible people only have a say in the last stage, well, better late than never. For instance, the claim that promising candidates, cf. above, are filtered out, is unsubstantiated and an explanation of “promising” is not given. For all we know, “promising” could here mean nothing but “is Hispanic, has a bachelor, wants to work here”—which is a long way from “is Hispanic, has a master from MIT with a great GPA, and has ten years of relevant experience”.

    (Not to forget: There is nothing remarkable with these decision makers being “white or Asian men”. Almost certainly this also reflects the suitable candidates in an earlier generation.)

    What has happened here is easy to understand: Facebook started to search for more diversified candidates, put them into the process, and found them being filtered out again, because they were not satisfactory. By analogy, if a fisherman casts his net wider, he will still not get the fish that is small enough to slip through the net.

  3. “Mäns våld mot kvinnor” (“mens’ violence against women”) is a Swedish specialty, but has similar variations in e.g. the U.S. (notably the misconception that domestic violence is committed predominantly by men onto women, which is very far from true).

    Using this specific phrase, feminists has spent decades running a grossly sexist campaign that paints men as serial abusers and women as innocent victims. Violence in the other direction and any other form of violence is strictly ignored. Violence simply is not a problem for these people—except when the perpetrator is a man and the victim a woman. To boot, “Mäns våld mot kvinnor” is painted as gigantic problem, while it in reality is a marginal issue: The vast majority of men do not in any way, shape, or form abuse their women.

    Unfortunately, feminist populism has become such a staple in Swedish mainstream political rhetoric that this type of hate speech and sexist rhetoric is regularly uttered even by high level politicians.

Written by michaeleriksson

January 13, 2017 at 6:11 am

Self-centered women (yet another censored comment)

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Today, I found a “freshly pressed” poste that had very narrow-minded and one-sided, not to say sexist, take on men and how they should approach women. This post was followed by a number of equally narrow-minded comments (and a few more intelligent). Having seen the same self-absorbed prejudices on a great number of occasions, I left the following (apparently censored due to dissent) comment:

You seem to make the major mistake of confusing what works (does not work) with what is graceful/appropriate/whatnot (graceless/inappropriate/…)

Asking directly for a number may not work, but there is nothing inherently wrong with doing so. On the contrary, simply asking is direct and honest. Notably, what the asker actually wants is usually clear from context and any actual claims made are likely to just be excuses or steps on the road to the goal.

Several commenters discuss signals and hints. What most women fail to understand is that:

1. Men prefer and expect direct communication over hints and it is wrong for women to blame this incompatibility on men. They are themselves just as guilty—indeed, arguably more so, because direct communication is inherently more efficient. (Note the similarity to the earlier parts of my comment.)

2. Not every woman uses the same signals to imply a particular meaning. There is no infallible universal language to stick to, and if a man fails to correctly interpret the signals of one particular woman, it is occasionally because he is used to another “dialect” (for want of a better word).

(Two typos corrected.)

Written by michaeleriksson

March 18, 2011 at 10:09 pm