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Money Smart Athlete Blog

The Gender Pay Gap in Sports

Dec 11, 2019 | Women Athletes

By Constantinos Massonos, Contributor

For years, women as athletes, technical staff, game officials, team or league executives have been forging inroads through the sports industry, in their efforts to bridge a deep-rooted gender gap.  Today, mainly because of these efforts, the sports world offers many more opportunities to women than, let’s say, 30 years ago.  In spite of that, women athletes cannot still enjoy the money, support and media attention that men athletes do.

Maybe the most important and publicized issue in the fight for gender parity in sports, is closing the gender pay gap, the difference in earnings between men and women.  In the sports industry, the pay gap varies greatly not only between genders but also between particular sports.  For example, while the gap is minimal between male and female tennis players, it grows enormously when it comes to male and female basketball players.

The following statistics show the extent of gender compensation disparity in sports:

  • The highest earning female basketball player is Kayla McBride who earned $163,000 in 2018 while Steph Curry earned $37,457,154.
  • No 1 pick in the 2019 WNBA Draft, Jackie Young will receive a base salary of $53,537 this season while No1 NBA Draft pick Zion Williamson, has signed a deal worth $44 million for the next 4 years.
  • In soccer, Neymar earned $43.8 million in 2017-2018 while the 180 women footballers who played in the US National Womens Soccer League during the same season earned $5.4 million all together.
  • The FIFA World Cup 2018 Champion, France, earned US$38 million from FIFA while their female counterparts, Women’s World Cup 2019 Champions USA will rake in just $4 million for its federation.

Using simple supply and demand economics, someone could argue that the gender pay gap is a reflection of the corresponding popularity of men’s and women’s sports. For example, the World Cup in Russia in 2018 generated $6.1 billion in revenue while the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France generated $131 million.

But the truth is that the above-mentioned numbers are not the source of the issue but rather the result of the disparity that also appears in sponsorship opportunities and media coverage between men’s and women’s sports. Women’s sports sponsorships account for just 0.4 per cent of all sports sponsorships internationally while only four per cent of sports media content is dedicated to women’s sports, and only 12 per cent of sports news is presented by women.

Improved coverage and marketing of women’s sport are critical in order to attract larger audiences which in turn will attract advertisers and investment.

Female athletes are also playing their part in bridging the gender pay gap in the sports industry.  Female tennis players were the first to take action against pay inequality and managed to receive equal award money in the U.S. Open back in 1973. All Grand Slam tournaments have been paying equal prize money since 2007, making tennis the sport with the narrowest pay gap. 

More recently, in 2016, members of the US Women Soccer team filed a wage-discrimination action against the U.S. Soccer Federation with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claiming that while the women’s team generated nearly $20 million more than the men’s team, women were paid about a quarter of what men earn; while losing their fight in court, a year after, they managed to sign a new collective bargaining agreement with U.S. Soccer that increased their income by more than 30%.

Female athletes simply want to be respected for the hard work they are putting in their sport; they don’t want a special treatment. They want to be treated and rewarded equally and fairly for the work they do and it is the duty of all of us to help rectify this situation.  For an exchange of ideas on how we could all help in eliminating the gender pay gap in sports, you may get in touch with us at