Pay equity comes to curling: Scotties and Brier winners to cash in same amount

The men's and women's national champion curling teams will now be cashing in the same amount of prize money.

During the Canada Cup event in Leduc, Alta., on Sunday, Curling Canada CEO Katherine Henderson announced the Scotties and Brier champions will both receive $105,000. 

"This is really important for me. I'm a female executive. I watch how much time, blood, sweat and tears these women put into this," said Henderson. "I always knew it was the right thing to do. There's no looking back."

Henderson became the CEO of Curling Canada in 2016 and made pay equity one of her top priorities.

"It's not that we didn't know what the right thing to do was — it was just taking the right steps to get there and make it sustainable," she said.

"It's played by women, fans are women and I want to see it run equally by men and women. If you take a look across industries, you want to get equal pay for equal work."

'They all want this'

The announcement comes as the two national championships fast approach and also in the wake of a heated debate over pay equity during last year's Brier and Scotties.

Many wondered why there was such a discrepancy in the payout: Kevin Koe's Alberta foursome was paid $100,500, including cresting and prize money for their victory, while Chelsea Carey's Scotties win was only worth $59,000, including cresting and prize money.

Now pay equity has arrived at both events, totalling $300,000 — something Henderson says was wanted by both male and female curlers.

Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

"They all want this. The men curlers wanted this too and were specific about that. They see these women as world-class athletes," Henderson said.

"We're a top echelon sport and we want to be around for a long time. And we want our athletes to be invested in properly."

Last year's totals for comparison were $293,000 for the Brier purse and $165,000 for the Scotties.

That's now changed in a move that was important to Henderson and Curling Canada. Both national champion teams will receive $105,000, while the second place teams will take home $65,000. Third place gets $45,000, leaving $85,000 for the remaining teams competing at the events.

"We're talking about big sport now," said Henderson. "All of our sponsors have worked with us to make the Scotties the largest women's sporting event in Canada."

Attendance and TV ratings a factor in the past

One of the reasons some used to justify the inequality in the past was the difference in attendance and TV ratings between the two events, directly affecting revenue.

Last year, the Scotties in Sydney, N.S., averaged 2,035 fans per draw, while the Brier in Brandon, Man. averaged 3,288 spectators per draw.

The TV ratings, however, were much closer.

The Brier had a slight edge in overall average audience viewership with 378,000, compared to 351,000 for the Scotties. The women, however, had more views in the playoffs with an average of 574,000, compared to 545,000 for the men. The Scotties final averaged 762,000 viewers to 659,000 for the Brier final.

Another small factor playing into the conversation was that the women received thousands of dollars in jewelry for competing at the Scotties. Henderson says women need to be seen on the same level as the men — and the women will still be getting their jewelry on top of the equal pay.

"Speaking with the athletes, probably one of their proudest moments of their curling lives is when they first receive their Scotties jewelry," Henderson said. "We're all committed to keeping the jewelry and the rings for the athletes."

It was also revealed there will be a women's leadership conference in Moose Jaw, Sask., this year during the Scotties — a chance for not only female curlers, but also umpires, volunteers and business leaders, to get together and share ideas and empower each other.

"I do a lot of work in that area. What we know is that we have young women, leaders, and they don't see females at the top. They don't know where to go and what to do," Henderson said. "I want to help those young people and bring them up and make sure women are a part of sport."

The Scotties Tournament of Hearts runs Feb. 15-23 in Moose Jaw, while the Brier is scheduled for Feb. 29-March 8 in Kingston, Ont.