By Mayi Cruz Blanco
Although girls and women have been able to access sports in growing numbers in the last decades, very few women have been able to reach senior leadership positions in the world of sports. Moreover, investment into girls and women sporting careers, remain dramatically low within international sport governing bodies; a direct effect from lacking critical mass of female leaders across the whole industry.
Currently, it is estimated that fewer than 20 per cent of Chief Executive positions in sports are filled by women. At the Chair or President level, this number falls to well under 10 per cent.
At the 21 century, girls and women face difficult hurdles to be recognised for their athletics talents. On the financial and economic level, the sport industry struggles to compensate women fairly both on sporting and executive levels.
Financial and investment education for women in sports, is of paramount importance, as women athletes grapple with their sporting careers, in most cases part time jobs and low incomes as sport-professionals. In sports, girls and women athletes, have to work on temporary jobs, cutting at least half of their potential income, in order to train and compete; to exercise their rights to a fair salary and guarantee a meaningful future, financial education is crucial.
Women need to assume a protagonist role in leading this change; pursuing financial and investment education, towards achieving economic empowerment should be one of their tasks and a priority.
An Economic Imperative
As the world grapples with a sluggish economy and every industry wrestles with disruption, the need to find new sources of growth has become an urgency within the sports industry as well. One force that could add trillions to global GDP and millions to the bottom line of organizations is among us already – women.
Excluding half of a potential participant pool, means natural-born talent, business opportunities and innovations in sport are left untapped.
Female entrepreneurs: Within the sport and wellbeing sector, women are seeing great potential in becoming entrepreneurs.
Women and finances: Financial institutions all over the world are realizing the potential for women as clients. Women’s global income growth is predicted to reach $18 trillion.
Start-up companies in the sports-industry: They rely more on women leaders and they are more focused on supporting the gender-parity agenda. Women are open to innovation and creativity and these are in high demand within the start-up space, a big motivational pull for women to get involved.
The gender-pay gap in sports is considered the biggest, in comparison to other industries. From the athletes’ perspective, this is far worse. Most female athletes must manage their sporting careers, while taking a part time job, as they lack professional sport-contracts.
Equal pay: football case-study
Neymar, a Brazilian male footballer, earned £32.9m from PSG for the 2017-18 season purely for his playing contract, without considering millions more he receives in commercial deals.
His salary was almost exactly the same as that of a total of 1,693 female players in France, Germany, England, the US, Sweden, Australia and Mexico combined, according to the Sporting Intelligence annual salary survey.
This extreme pay-gap goes on within the football ecosystem. Female footballers no longer accept the status-quo and they are standing up for their rights to equal pay, fair investment and better – playing conditions. Across the world from Sweden, Denmark, Norway, United States, Colombia, Mexico, Argentina, Australia, to New Zealand – we have seen a huge wave of female players asking for professional contracts and equal pay.
Men are supporting: In 2017, the Norway men’s football national team offered part of their income to equalize that of their women’s national team.
However, the battle for equal pay continues even for the world’s champions. The U.S. women’s national team has outpaced the men’s national team in viewership, as its 2015 Women’s World Cup championship game is the most watched soccer game in American history — for either gender. However, the biggest battle the team will face, may not be the at the FIFA Women’s World Cup this summer. The U.S. women’s national team has filed a lawsuit, in pursuit of equal pay and equal playing conditions, as those of their male counterparts.
The equal pay debate in football has taken a whole new height with the FIFA women’s world cup in France this summer. Adidas announced, that its sponsored players on the winning 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup team will receive the same performance bonus as their male counterparts.
However, closing the salary-gap will no longer suffice. Girls and women need to be educated about how to manage their finances, how to invest whether their earnings are high or low: their money should matter. In sports, this is relevant both for athletes and women working in the industry. To become financially independent and stronger players at decision-making levels, women need to take ownership of their finances both individually and collectively by investing and generating funding that powers their future and that of sports for female generations to come.
The promise is significant: Investing in girls and women and supporting them to become financially educated and independent, will have a direct impact on sporting development and business!