Photo: Franck Fife, Getty
In the 2016 presidential election Hillary Clinton has the opportunity to do something historic – become the first woman president in the United States. One of her platforms involves addressing the gender wage gap. According to the Women's Institute of Policy and Research women earn about 79% of what men earn in nearly all occupations. Recently, the United States women's soccer team highlighted this imbalance of pay in professional soccer by filing a wage discrimination lawsuit against United States Soccer Federation. Each women's soccer player earns $99,000 if the team wins each of its 20 exhibition matches. In contrast, if the men's team wins all of their exhibition matches each player earns about $250,000. If the men lose all of their exhibition matches the men still earn $100,000 each. So regardless of the teams success the men's team earns more than the women's.
With this inequality in pay, the debate of whether or not men and women should earn equal wages has expanded in throughout professional sports. In 2015, just two women, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams made the cut in the ranking of the top 100 highest paid athletes In the world. To reason through this disparity in professional sports, people often point to belief that male athletes bring in more revenue than female athletes. In some cases this is true and in others (like in the Women's Soccer Team) it is not. Despite the fact that the men's world cup purse is about 300 million dollars more than the women's, the women's team brought in more revenue than the men's team. Furthermore, the women's team has been more successful.They have won 4 gold medals in the Olympics and 3 FIFA world cups since 1991. In comparison, the men's team has only won bronze once......in the 1930 FIFA world cup.
Serena Williams - Photo: Clive Brunskill, Getty Images
The wage discrimination is just as pertinent in other professional sports. In the WNBA, the most valuable player of the league, Dianna Taurasi earns $107,000 on her maximum contract. On the other hand, the NBA minimum salary is $525,000. In Golf, the LPGA dispenses about $62,000,000 in prize money compared to $320,000,000 for the PGA. For each major golf tournament, the male champion earns an average of about $6,000,000 more than the female champion.
However, The WNBA and the LPGA are distinctly different than the United States Women's Soccer Team.
The NBA brings in billions of dollars and has an 82 game schedule compared to a WNBA schedule of 30 games. The LPGA and PGA prize money are directly representative of the money they bring in. The men golfers have significantly higher TV ratings and higher attendance. The dispersion of the prize money is fair but not equal. This is the case across the majority of professional sports, the men generate more revenue so they receive more revenue.
The wage gap carries over to college athletics too, not just professional sports. Although Tittle IX requires schools which receive federal money to provide equal opportunity and funding to male and female sports programs, discrimination still occurs. According to the NCAA men receive 55% of the scholarship money. In addition, females make up 57% of college students however, they receive about 65,000 fewer athletic opportunities on college teams than males.
Professional tennis is one of the few exceptions to the imbalance of pay. In all four grand slams, women and men are paid equally thanks to activists like Billie Jean King who devoted her life to promoting equal pay. Equal pay in tennis has led to more advertisements, more coverage, and thus, more opportunities for women to be considered equal in all aspects of tennis- whether its playing on center court or directing and managing a Grand Slam. Without this equal pay, it might not be possible for professional women's tennis to be a lucrative profession. The equal wage is necessary for the survival of the sport.
However, in tennis it's extremely difficult to justify equal pay. The men bring in significantly more revenue than the women. The men stars sell more apparel, more racquets, and more tickets than their female counterparts. Not to mention the men are actually on the court longer. Women's matches play best 2 out of 3 sets compared to men who play best 3 out of 5 sets. This equates to about 90 more minutes a match on average. With 50 matches a year, that can equate to 13,500 more hours of play. So in tennis the men are working more and bringing in more revenue, yet earning the same amount of money. Although tennis embraces equal pay, it is difficult to justify based solely on revenue and work.
As sports fans and as people who believe in gender equality, its difficult to determine whether or not male and female athletes should earn the same amount of money. In 2016 we definitely should support equal pay for equal work, but what do we do when one gender is working more and bringing in more money? It’s a debate that all athletes are apart of, yet no one has found an "equal" compromise just yet.