Paid Less to Do More? The Athlete Wage Gap
by Kimberly Roe
The sports industry has a history of sexism ranging from blatant to almost undetectable that has reared its unfortunate head throughout the years. From dismissal of women’s opinions in commentary to devaluing women’s sports leagues around the world, female athletes often find that they are less appreciated than their male counterparts. This is most definitely without warrant, especially considering how women’s teams steadily perform just as well or even better than men’s. The controversy surrounding the 2015 Women’s World Cup is a great example of the double standard.
On July 5, 2015, The US Women’s Soccer team won the 2015 Women’s World Cup. This was their third World Cup victory, something the country’s men’s team has never achieved. Yet somehow the women’s team was awarded a salary amount 4 times less than the men’s team was granted in 2014 after losing in the first round. This is not the only controversy surrounding FIFA’s treatment of women’s soccer. The Women’s Cup matches were held on artificial turf, instead of grass like the men’s games, greatly increasing the risk of injury. Reportedly, the turf reached 120 degrees during the day. Some argue that women’s sports are treated this way because they are less popular or not engaging enough. However, this is not true.
The Women’s World Cup was certainly not unpopular. In fact, the US-Japan Women’s Cup match on July 6th gained the most US views of any soccer match in television history. And to say it is not engaging is to say that its players haven’t inspired millions of young girls around the world to pursue their dreams in athletics, which is obviously false. This just continues to perpetuate the idea that women not only can be dismissed in sports, but should.
When making a decision between shutting down or cutting the funding of a high school girl’s team or a boy’s team, the decision is almost always made in favor of the males. Successful female athletes, like Serena Williams, are often devalued and reduced to their looks when they have proved countless times that they are just as good, if not better than their male counterparts. Women involved in sports are constantly belittled and maliciously compared to men, which is not a situation any women should have to endure.
To right this wrong, we must refuse to accept the treatment. Male and female tennis players at Wimbledon, the French Open, the Australian Open, and the US Open are paid equally thanks to equality efforts. This can be the reality of the US soccer teams and various other sports teams around the world. It will not happen overnight, but equality in this regard can be attained with the support of fair treatment advocates.
We can do this in many ways.
Watch women’s sports matches on television to ensure they have steady and favorable ratings. This will do much to put them in the public eye, thus giving them more leverage for equal pay.
Fight against sexism in sports media. Do not let commentators or critics reduce women’s sports to how the athletes appear. Make sure coverage is fair and that female sports reporters aren’t belittled. They face discrimination as well.
Encourage young female athletes. This is their battle, too. They can lose their zeal for sports if they feel like it won’t be worth anything. Make sure they know that they are powerful and deserve equal treatment. Their passion is what fuels the next generation, and it should never be overlooked.
Equal pay is not just a sports issue, obviously. Women being paid less to do more is a consistent issue across many industries, and all of them need support to encourage improvement. Even those who don’t consider themselves sports enthusiasts can find a cause in women’s athletics because it’s not simply supporting women’s athletics. It’s supporting women, period.