Prize surprise 

click to enlarge PHOTO BY DAN FALLOON
  • photo by Dan Falloon

The concept of earning equal pay for equal work shouldn't be overly controversial.

If you accomplish the goals set out in your job description, you should be remunerated a set amount that doesn't change based on your sex, race, religion, ability, age or any other variable.

If you're an athlete, at the very top of your job description is, simply, to win.

But some competitions value wins differently for some than for others.

At the recent World Ski and Snowboard Festival (WSSF), the Monster Energy Boarderstyle awarded a healthy $5,000 prize for the men's winner, but a comparatively measly $800 for the women's champion. Attempts to reach Monster through email and via Twitter for an explanation or justification in each of the last two years have not been so much as acknowledged.

Also at the WSSF, the Gibbons Style Session cut the women's prize in half, from $8,000 in the event's first year — equal to the men's winners — to $4,000 this year.

When launching the event in 2016, Gibbons' senior manager of marketing and partnerships Sara Burke touted the necessity of offering the same prize to men as to women.

"We really felt it was important to offer equal prize money across the board for whichever pair ends up being the winner," Burke told Pique in 2016. "It's a winner-take-all-type thing. We want this to be something where there's completely fair representation in associated prizing."

However, this year, organizers decided to slash the women's prizing and the event's total purse.

"Very simply, we had half the amount of women's teams participate as men's teams, so in working with the experts at WSSF and the event organizers this is what was deemed fairest," Burke wrote in an email last week.

In 2016, the disparity was roughly the same, with 12 men's teams and seven women's teams participating.

Because men and women are put in separate divisions, it's a little bit harder to pin down what might constitute equal work. If, for all intents and purposes, they're both pro divisions with the only differences being sex, then the prize should be equal.

These athletes are the best of the best at what they do in their predetermined divisions.

The winners can only beat the competitors that are in front of them. In some cases, it's six others and in some cases, it's 11. Sometimes it's because organizers imposed a cap, and sometimes it's because fewer people signed up for the women's division. At any rate, it's not something the winner could control.

In any tournament or playoff, some teams have an easier road to the final, but this isn't taken into consideration — the winner's share is the same. In this case, if a pro win is valued at $8,000, then that's the bar that's been established.

The other factor is that sport is their job, their labour. They've agreed to participate in an industry where their wage can vary based on their performance. But it shouldn't change based on their sex.

Some might argue that the popularity of male athletes, or perhaps the ability to jump higher, go faster or spin more times, is why men should be given a greater piece of the pie — that this is the market talking and it says men are powering the engine, so they should reap the rewards.

This discretion already exists when athletes are offered sponsorships. The more popular ones have greater earning potential and the bulk of them will capitalize upon it.

Perhaps a loose comparison to the service industry would work. All servers should receive an equal base wage, but some will earn greater tips than others — sometimes it will be because of hard work and hustle, others because of talent and others because that's what the customer decides.

Ultimately, though, your food, rent and transportation all cost the same whether you're a man or woman. If we want our winners to continue to win, here and elsewhere, they should at least be getting the chance to be (relatively) financially stable. That'll be a whole heck of a lot easier if contest organizers consider a win a win, no matter who tops the podium.

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