Women and Equal Pay and how it relates to Solving the NBA

Alright, this post is going to be a bit convoluted but stay with me!

The intersection of NBA and Birbiglia fans will love the reference.

In Hanna Rosin’s book “The End of Men” the issue of income inequality between genders is discussed. (to clarify, this is women and men in the same position being paid different salaries) While it certainly can’t be distilled into a simple explanation, one very concrete thing was discovered. Earlier in their careers, men are more likely to negotiate for better pay, while women are more likely to take the initial offer. And thanks to how raises are typically a percentage increase of base salary, this can have a long term impact.

This is perfect! We have a clearly defined problem. We have a very identifiable cause (at least one of the causes) and a pretty clear solution. If women negotiate for better pay at the start of their career, then we can eliminate some of the income gap. Right?

Not so fast! Another issue brought up is how the same actions by men and women are viewed differently. Men speaking aggressively in meetings can be perceived as powerful and an example of leadership. While, the same actions by women can be perceived as harsh or antagonistic. (Same action, different people, different perception? A common theme around here…) And this is a problem when it comes to negotiating pay. It turns out the action of a man negotiating for an initial salary increase is perceived differently than a woman. And the end result isn’t the same, meaning the male is more likely to get the raise. And unfortunately our simple problem with an easy solution is not so easily solved.

An XKCD, just for Arturo! (http://xkcd.com/592/)

How does this relate to basketball, which this site allegedly writes about? Glad you asked! Yesterday Patrick made the wonderful point about the Wins Produced formula. It doesn’t care about the why! If a player takes bad shots, the player is bad. If a player can’t hold onto the ball or get rebounds, that player may not be good. And while I did enjoy the many complicated speculations in the comments, it turns out we’ve dug into these issues…a lot. (Long story short, basketball has some of the most consistent stats of all sports, implying many of these things are skills, not luck — see football for opposite)

That’s the point, we have an easily identifiable problem – shoot better, get and keep the ball. And obvious examples of how to improve players. Take shots closer to the rim, get closer to the rim for rebounds. Don’t turn the ball over. However, it turns out implementing these solutions may not be as easy as we think. Getting players to play better may not be trivial. In fact, of the hundreds of coaches that have gone through the NBA, only a few have successfully done this! So when we say things like “Melo or Westbrook could easily be a better player if they just…” It’s important to take the word easily with a grain of salt.


Of course, on the issues of NBA GMs ability to easily not sign bad players? Well that’s a much shorter post.

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