Establish Equal Pay in Sports


Michelle Ho, Staff Writer

The fight for gender equality is no small matter, and its effects reach nearly every part of our society, including sports. Carli Lloyd, the top-paid female soccer player as of 2019, is paid about $518,000 annually. Her male counterpart and top-paid male footballer, Lionel Messi, is paid an estimated $130 million a year. The difference between the two athletes’ incomes is astonishing. In many sports, women are paid consistently less than men, despite often achieving much more in their respective field. 

“The women’s team has far exceeded the success of their male counterparts, who failed to even qualify for the FIFA Men’s World Cup in 2018. Meanwhile, the women have placed in the top three teams in every Women’s World Cup since 1991 (when the women’s tournament began) and have three titles,” said the Women’s Sports Foundation.

With a career in sports being one of the highest-paying and most sought-after jobs in the world, the gender pay gap needs to be closed.

The “women aren’t as physically capable” argument is not sufficient or logical. Of course, men do have some physical edge over women, but just as men have their advantages, women boast their own unique physical abilities.

“Women’s bodies have a lower center of gravity and therefore better balance; they tend to be more flexible, and their bodies more efficiently convert calories into energy giving them greater endurance,” said Liesl Goecker in the article, All the Arguments You Need: to Advocate for Equal Pay in Sport

It is important to remember that there are distinct differences between a man and a woman’s body; that’s why the sports they play differ so much in style and strategy. In addition, the sports industry has often assumed that women are too frail for certain sports. Women were prohibited from entering marathons until 1972, and today in the major Grand Slam tournaments, women play 3 sets while men play 5 sets. Despite female players expressing their capability and desire to play 5 sets, their requests have been denied.

“I think one of the things about that argument, the reason I think it’s null, is because we have said we’re willing and ready,” said Serena Williams, a recently retired tennis star. “I think every female athlete is ready to play five sets.”

Another faulty argument is that, because women’s sports are less competitive than men’s sports, women should be paid less. There is simply nothing to justify this argument. There is some evidence that shows that women’s sports are less competitive. For example, when female athlete teams play against one another, the higher ranking team usually wins easily with a definitive score. The score in men’s sports, however, can go either way, regardless of the ranking of the players.

“The recent women’s football World Cup match between the #1-ranked U.S. team and #34-ranked Thailand was an easy romp, ending 13-0; the score at the end of the most recent men’s football match between #1-ranked Belgium and #34-ranked Serbia was a much tighter 2-1,” said Goecker.

The conclusive score of the women’s game shows how there is clearly a leap in skill level between the #1 ranked and the #34 ranked teams. However, when teams of the same ranking in the men’s game played, their score was much closer than the women’s score, with the #1 ranked team winning by just 1 point.

While women may have less competition due to less players and more differentiation between skill levels, this, again, compares men’s and women’s sports side by side as if they are the same thing, rather than two completely different games. A female athlete plays against people who are ranked in their respective playing field, just as a man plays against his own equal competition. Comparing women’s sport to men’s sports and deeming the women’s to be inferior invalidates all the training, dedication, and sheer talent that female athletes must commit to their career to rise to the top of their game.

It is also worth mentioning that the lack of competition may be due to less investments in the training and recruiting of talents for women’s sports. Social stigmas make it more difficult for women to find adequate training and recruiting opportunities, especially as colleges and professional teams focus more on the training and development of the men’s team. In an article by The Guardian, writer Caitlin Murray writes about the difference between the income of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer team’s head coach, Jill Ellis, and several other male soccer coaches, who are paid significantly more.

“The availability of quality, trained coaches may be lacking in their community or these coaches may be more focused on the boys’ programs that have more money for training,” said Women’s Sports Foundation.

Throughout the U.S, several female athletes and teams have stood up against unequal pay and are working to level the pay gap. The U.S. Soccer Federation announced that this year, both the men’s and women’s national teams would be receiving equal pay. This is a huge win for the female athletes, and other sports are being encouraged to follow by example. Top female tennis stars such as Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams have fought for equal pay in tennis, trying to equalize pay in the majority of tournaments. Since 2007, the four major Grand Slam tournaments have smoothed the pay gap, but there is a lot more work that needs to be done for other sports and tournaments to do the same.

Financial justice in women’s sports has come a long way in recent years. The proper funding of resources, industry, and recruitment now has a glimmer of hope that is just beyond the horizon. Equal resources to their male counterparts would allow female athletes to flourish at similar levels of skill and ability that male athletes compete at. There is so much more that can be accomplished, but as of right now, the fight for equal pay is a slow process that must be patiently nurtured to be rewarded with results.


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