Labor negotiations in U.S. women's soccer and women's hockey have brought increased attention to pay inequality in sports, which mirrors the pay inequality that many women experience at employers in all industries. But the resolutions agreed to in these high-profile sports negotiations aren't just about money — they also offer interesting lessons about compensation and engagement for HR leaders in all industries.

On average, men make 28 percent more than women across all industries, reports the ADP Research Institute® report, Are Employers Paying Their Employees Equitably? So while offering equal pay for equal work is certainly an important goal for HR leaders, the recent negotiations involving professional women athletes show that HR leaders should look beyond simply paychecks to keep female employees engaged and rewarded appropriately.

1. Women Want the Same Benefits and Perks as Men

The U.S. women's national ice hockey team was prepared to boycott a major international tournament unless USA Hockey, the sport's governing body, worked toward a new compensation agreement with them, CNNMoney reports. While the female players asked for an increased salary of $68,000, they didn't just want more money, they also wanted to be able to bring a guest to competitions, travel in business class, and receive disability insurance like their male counterparts, CNNMoney reports. The women also asked for benefits like child care, maternity leave, and better marketing and promotion.

To keep your women employees engaged, HR leaders should look for ways to provide benefits and perks that will help them live their lives better, such as flexible scheduling and generous family leave time.

2. Women Are Interested in Paving the Way for Others

The New York Times reports that one of the U.S. women's soccer team's priorities included changes that they believed would be important to the long-term growth of their game, such as improved league standards and increases in camp and roster bonuses for players who aren't under a contract. These changes would help establish a structure to support the careers of current national players and the next generation.

The soccer players' attention to the future of their game is in step with the desire of many younger workers to be a part of something meaningful, as noted by the ADP Research Institute® report, The Evolution of Work: The Changing Nature of the Global Workplace. Eighty-nine percent of younger workers will choose to work on personal interests and things that impact society, according to ADP.

Just as U.S. Soccer was able to come to an agreement with female players by ensuring that their efforts will make a difference for their sport and women for years to come, HR leaders can establish common ground with their employees by connecting their work to the future and to broader achievements.

3. Unequal Pay Can Cause Tension Between Professional Men and Women

The U.S. Soccer organization is traditionally close-knit and supportive, but as the women's team engaged in a lengthy fight for equal pay, some team members resorted to criticizing their male counterparts' performance on the field as a way of justifying their own battle for more pay. The women's team, with three World Cup championships and four Olympic championships, earned about 40 percent of the salaries paid to U.S. men's soccer players, who "get paid more to just show up than we get paid to win major championships," stated Hope Solo, a women's player who joined others in filing a wage discrimination complaint in 2016, according to The New York Times.

HR leaders can learn from recent pay inequality in sports and take the initiative to implement fair pay and benefits across the board, thereby halting any possible comparisons employees might make to one another.

By taking the time to find out what matters to your employees and figuring out ways to provide compensation that shows your firm values their contributions, you should be able to promote an engaged and productive workforce — no matter whether they are male or female.

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Tags: pay equity Employee Engagement