The gender pay gap in sport

SAVANNAH PLASKITT

In 2015, then women’s tennis number one, Serena Williams earned half as much as the men’s number one, Novak Djokovic, even though both had won three Grand Slams. In 2016 the highest paid female footballer was Alex Morgan, who earned about $2.8 million while the highest paid male footballer, Cristiano Ronaldo, earned more than $88 million.

The US men’s soccer team is ranked 26th in the world while the women’s US soccer team is ranked world number one. The women’s team also generated $20m more revenue last year than the men’s team, but were still paid significantly less than the men. This discrepancy is not an outlier in football as the sport has the largest pay gap. Winner of the Women’s Super League received no winnings but when Chelsea won the Premier League title last season they received £38m. In the Champions League men’s winners, Real Madrid were awarded £13.5m and women’s winner’s, Lyon were awarded just £219,920. In the World Cup the winning men’s team receives £35m compared to the £2m the winning women’s team receive. Golf and cricket also have a large gap between men’s and women’s winnings with male winners of The Open receiving £1.17 million compared to women’s £487,500, and cricket World Cup men’s winners receiving £3.1 million compared to women’s £470,500.

A lot of the disparity in earnings stem from the commercialization of sport, so while competitions (such as the tennis Grand Slams) pay the same prize money to both men and women, sponsors may pay less. European Solheim Cup captain, Annika Sorenstam, said “Sport is a mirror of the business world. Unfortunately a lot of women in the business world don’t always get paid the same as a man in the same role. We just have to continue to fight for it and hope they pay by performance and not by gender.”

A misconception surrounding women in sport is that it is not as entertaining to watch. Executive Director of Women on Boards, Claire Braund, argued that “Had our culture been used to seeing women, rather than men, play football and rugby for generations, we would find the idea of men playing these games a bit novel. It’s all a matter of perspective.” In the US, the Women’s World Cup final had the largest viewing audience in the history of US soccer.

However, according to a BBC study of 68 different sports, the pay gap is narrowing. The study conducted to mark Women’s Sport Week 2017 found that 83% of sports now reward men and women equally, rather than 70% in 2014. In 1973 no sport rewarded men and women equally. CEO at Women in Sport, Ruth Holdaway, said in an interview with HuffPost UK that “there needs to be fundamental culture change within the sports sector itself […] We need transformation at every level of sport, but especially at the top as female board members and CEOs of sports organisations are still a minority.” Holdaway continued saying “Women’s sport will never receive the recognition it deserves when female voices are in short supply.”

 

Illustration: Michelle Hartzenberg.

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