Table of contents
- Introduction to Gender Inequality in Sports
- The Historical Perspective: Title IX and Its Impact
- The Financial Disparity: A Closer Look at Revenue and Pay
- Solutions and Advocacy: The Path Forward
- Effects on Society
- The Role of Society and Fans in Bridging the Gap
- Conclusion: The Ongoing Struggle for Equality
Introduction to Gender Inequality in Sports
Even though it is the 21st century, America is still not treating women and men as equals. There is a severe problem in the world of gender equality. It could be said that the issue is widening the gap between men and women, rather than closing. Within this inequality topic between men and women, the gender pay gap for athletes is a predominant problem. What would it take to resolve discrimination against sex in athletics?
Female athletes are paid less than their male counterparts at the same level in sports, due to the social norms that physical activity is associated with masculinity. One solution would be that organizations create equal pay contracts and promote the women as much as the men to prove that the value of the game is worth supporting.
The Historical Perspective: Title IX and Its Impact
Sports have traditionally been known as male-dominated all around the world. This has been an issue in society since the beginning. In 1972 the United States Congress created The Title IX of the Omnibus Education Act. The act was designed to ensure equality for educational opportunities for both males and females. The Title IX states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance” (U.S. Department of Education, 2018, Para. 2). This act does not refer to athletics specifically. However, interpretations and court cases have upheld this standard for athletics. Women’s sports have now found new popularity and has resulted in a huge leap forward in the industry. Unfortunately, women are paid as if they almost don’t exist and men still dominate sports.
Today, female athletes have generated more revenue than the men at the same level in the same sport and are still being paid less. In 2015 when the U.S. women’s soccer team won the world cup, they earned more revenue for the U.S. Soccer Federation than the men’s squad for the first time. “The players exceeded revenue projections by as much as $16 million and have become the federation’s main economic engine even as, they earned only half as much or less than their male counterparts” (Das, 2016, par. 10).
In the sports industry, females have a long way to catch up to the men’s income. On Forbes list of the world’s highest-paid athletes of 2018, not one woman is on the list. Serena Williams is an American professional tennis player and is ranked number 1 in the world. “No Female athlete earned more than Serena at $18 million. The 100th-highest-paid male athlete, Nicolas Batum, a French basketball player, earned $22.9 million” (Elsessser, 2018, par. 2). Tennis players compete in tournaments known as the Grand Slam, both men and women receive the same prize money. However, the overall pay in other matches is significantly less for women than the men. Indicating that there is still a wage gap. Serna Williams has earned millions of dollars less than Novak Djokovic even though she has many more Grand Slam singles titles. Novak is ranked 86th on the list highest-paid athletes of 2018, at $23.5 million.
The Financial Disparity: A Closer Look at Revenue and Pay
Like any problem there are solutions, they may not be immediate, but actions can be taken to resolve the problem. Players and their associations need to come together and form new contracts that will build longstanding growth for the organization. Individual players or teams should voice the concerns they have regarding work inequality. If issues aren’t pointed out and talked about, they will never be resolved. These agreements need to be drafted so that their salaries per game increase to match that of the males. In addition, if not currently done, games need to have equal amount of prize money for the big game wins. If players aren’t treated with the same respect, they need to fight for that right. Playing conditions need to be expected for same level sports. All of this should be a goal when new contracts are drafted. Awareness is the first step when striving for change and players will need dig deep in preparation for a battle.
Solutions and Advocacy: The Path Forward
Ultimately organizations should be thinking about the current wage gap as an investment. For example, the FIFA should use this as an avenue to increase participation in women’s soccer across the globe. This year in 2019 France will host the women’s world cup. This would be a great way to propel momentum for the success of the team and increase the revenue of attendance and viewers. Consider the impact that it would have if the proper resources of promoting the game with the same intensity that is spent on the men’s game. Sports is a powerful vehicle for social change. No business or sports empire can live in the past and expect to be considered as appropriate in the future.
Although this option isn’t the most advisable solution, it can be effective. Players can go on strike until their demands are met and voices are heard. Athletes can boycott practice to prove their commitment to negotiating standards that will increase their wages to equal that of the male athletes. Boycotts are common around sporting events, such as the 1980 and 1984 Olympic Games. “There is little research into the effectiveness of a boycott. Nelson Mandela was freed, and Apartheid was abolished, but whether that was due to a boycott is difficult to say. Nevertheless, it is not unlikely that they felt the support of the world in their struggles” (Rosendaal & Reitsma, 2017, para. 3). A strike can bring public awareness to the current situation and provide substantial support. The committees will not like the negative attention, resulting in a quick response to create an agreement that everyone can agree upon.
Female players are generating more revenue, proving that they provide just as much and even more value to competitions than men. But they make less than men. Evidence is showing the pay gap isn’t because of the value of the game, it is discrimination against gender. If the players stand up and fight for equal playing conditions, treatment, and pay, then it will prove that they are striving for a brighter future for them and the associations which they represent.
In order to make a professional salary most female athletes have to take on sponsorships. However, this does not equal the wage gap for payment since male athletes can also take on sponsorships and endorsements. Sponsorship can are difficult to come by and can be difficult to juggle with so much time being dedicated to their sport. This is tricky since you will lose your sponsor if you aren’t doing well in sports, but you also need to focus on your athletic career. For females’ athletes they need sponsors to make a living, but they can’t take on too much in case they become overwhelmed with the lack of dedication to their sports. Imagine if you weren’t a beautiful individual you would be less likely to even receive sponsors because they want someone physically attractive to represent their brand. Even though sponsorships are a great way to receive additional revenue, it isn’t a solution to the pay gap that females are facing.
Effects on Society
Female sports are considered to be less valued by society. “Sport is perceived of as a masculine activity based on the perception that it is synonymous with such abilities as a force of aggression” (Nogueira, Molinero, Del Valle, Lucidi, & Márquez, 2017, pg. 3). The author goes on to say that people consider elegance, weakness, and gentle activities to be feminine. In turn, that means that female sports aren’t taken into the same account as the men and are ranked at a different level (Nogueira, Molinero, Del Valle, Lucidi, & Márquez, 2017). It is important to see why inequality is here and the reason that the public seems to be okay with the current situation of the pay gap for athletes. However, this negative view can have a hugely negative impact on society. “Gender-based comparisons showed that women reported a higher lifetime prevalence of anxiety and mood disorders, and that perceived gender discrimination contributed to this pattern” (Kim, & Park, 2018, par. 4). This is important because it shows how discrimination can negatively impact society and harm future generations.
Let’s get to the root of the matter, what can be done to change society’s view, that sports are not dominated by males, and how can healthy environments be created? The truth is, players and governing parties will continue to hash out negotiations of equal pay and treatment. Meanwhile, fans are critical. Encouragement from fathers, sisters, and friends to support sports teams in the battle against gender norms can make a dramatic impact. Support can be as simple as purchasing merchandise which will advertise enthusiasm for favorite teams and players. Purchase more than just final game tickets, show up for every game. Finally, fans can stand by girls’ and women’s sports by demanding equal treatment, work, and pay. Continual action can develop positive, long overdue changes.
The Role of Society and Fans in Bridging the Gap
Professional sports have maintained firm as a billion-dollar industry even through economic recessions. The reason for this is because these sports have built life time fans who have provided their enduring support. Fans are essential to the success of sports, that is pretty obvious. However, if time and effort went into creating a dedicated fan, they would provide our female players with the support. Once an individual determines that a game is valuable, they will continue to attend. “Success of the team, the players were good or likable, geographic location of the team, affiliation resulting in supporting the same team as friends or peers, and their family originally followed the team” (Wann, Tucker & Schrader, 1996, pg. 998). If efforts were spent to increase the fan base of female sports, then dramatic improvements in attendance would be seen. We can feel comfortable with people who live and share the same values. That is why it is so important to act what you believe so that your followers can gain a connection with you. This would be an issue if the players were unhappy with their working circumstances such as payment and equal treatment. With the engagement of fans, organizations need to decide which standards they want to uphold, including women’s rights.
Conclusion: The Ongoing Struggle for Equality
Even with the significant strides that have been made over time, women are still fighting to show that they are equal to men in many aspects, including sports. Although there are many sides to the dispute, the goal is to stand up against the injustice of earning less money than the opposite sex in comparison to the same sport. Steps that can be taken to improve the situation is to construct contracts that pay women the same as the men. Organizations can take additional time, money and resources in developing momentum for the female teams. This will provide lifelong fans that will generate revenue and bring more than money to the table, they will bring loyalty. If sports organizations choose not to listen, expand your voice to the public and boycott any involvement until circumstances are improved. A player’s biggest asset is their fans, if they truly support them. The fans will stand up and find a way to have their favorite player remain on the court, field, track. 2-time grand slam winner Billie Jean King stated, “It’s more about what is morally the right thing to do over time. It’s such a fight for change. Change is slow and so difficult. Women have to stick up for themselves and fight for it.” (Amanpour & Masters, 2016). Female athletes everywhere are fighting for the right to make just as much as their male counterparts. It has been a constant battle in the hopes to achieve equality.