Working for free – a rugby player’s view

My eye was caught by a piece by Catherine Spencer in yesterday’s Guardian.  Catherine is a former captain of the England women’s rugby team, and author of a charmingly alliterative book Mud, Maul, Mascara.  She starts with the observation that men in the England rugby team are paid £25K per match, whilst their Japanese counterparts get barely enough to cover meagre subsistence costs.

Catherine goes on to argue not against professional payments generally, but that the revenue generated by international matches should go back into the grassroots.  She says that it cannot be money that motivates people to want to play for their country – pointing out that the Japanese men did not need extra motivation when they scored their famous World Cup win against South Africa in 2015.

Her piece flags up a wider issue about motivation and reward.  One reason for the Paula Principle is that women do not ask for financial rewards in as outright a fashion as men.  They tend – generalisation alert – to find more motivation in the quality of the job and its intrinsic value.    I commented many months ago that I didn’t find it a tragedy that the female head of General Motors wasn’t paid at the stratospheric level of her male predecessor – that’s not the kind of inequality that gets me going much.

There are signs that younger generations, when looking for a job, pay more attention to qualitative aspects rather than looking purely at the money;  this includes young men as well as young women, but the overall finding is certainly influenced by the greater numbers of qualified young women now in the professional job market.  How healthy it would be – literally – if more people followed that path, and made it clear that they measure their worth by criteria other than how much money they are offered.

Catherine Spencer was not arguing that rugby players – male or female – should play for free, and I’m not suggesting that people should not bargain strongly for the right salary.  But if employers, and senior managers, understood clearly that men as well as women have a broader set of measures we would have a boost in workplace satisfaction, and possibly even in productivity -however that is measured on the rugby pitch.

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