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Sports and Health

Why do Female Athletes Make Less?

The fight for equal pay in sports

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  • Women and men are historically not paid equally, especially in sports. [TIME]

  • This is called the "gender gap."

  • About 17% of sports reward men and women with different amounts of money. 83% of sports reward men and women equally. [Alijazeera]

screen shot 2019 11 07 at 2 16 55 pmForbes

2019 Top 10 Highest-Paid Athletes

  • 1 female made the 2019 list of World's Highest-Paid Athletes, ranked by Forbes.
  • Serena Williams is ranked #63 of 100.
  • Serena Williams was the only female athlete on the Forbes' 2017 list.
  • The 2018 Forbes list had no women.



CIVICS: The Equal Pay Act of 1963 was an attempt to end gender-based pay gaps. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also banned employers from discriminating on the basis of “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” [HISTORY]


SOCIAL: The sporting community is making progress toward equal pay but some say at “glacial” pace. [BBC]


Tennis legend Billie Jean King began this fight in the 1970s. In 2018, Serena Williams and Venus Williams joined the fight for equal pay for women in sports. [The Washington Post] Why is it still an issue almost 50 years later?


Soccer (football)

Women's soccer is arguably more popular in the U.S. than men's.


For winning the 2015 World Cup,

  • the female team earned $2 million,
  • the male team earned $35 million. [BBC]


The USGA has a long history of pay inequality. In 2015,

  • Lydia Ko won the LPGA's ANA Inspiration and received $390,000,
  • Jordan Spieth earned $1.8 million for winning the PGA's Masters. [ESPN]


WNBA's highest-paid player, Sheryl Swoopes, (aka the "Michael Jordan of the WNBA") makes less money than a typical NBA player from 1999. [Forbes]


Deep roots

Society long viewed physical training to be only for men. [The Atlantic]  


The first male professional sports team formed in 1869 (Cincinnati Red Stockings, baseball), while the first women's professional sports team was formed in 1936 (The All American Red Heads Team, basketball). 


Father of the modern Olympic Games, Pierre de Coubertin, described women’s sport as an “unaesthetic sight”. [Huffington Post] It took until 2012 London games to have at least 1 female athlete represented in every country. [BBC]



Media coverage

Media coverage of a sporting event or tournament often increases a player's winnings. [The Washington Post]


There is less coverage of women's sports on TV news today than there was in 1989. [USC]



Starting in school

Some believe support women in sports starts with supporting young girls engaging in sports at school.


Women's Sports Foundation found teenage girls drop out of sports twice as likely as boys their age. [Women's Sports Foundation]


  • Evidence suggests women are receiving more media coverage, thanks to social media. [UMN]

  • Sportswomen are more than ever advocating for themselves. For example, U.S. women’s hockey team boycotted international play for fair wages and won the fight. [TIME]

  • Sept. 2019: U.S. Open tennis championship winners for male and female earned the same prize money for the first time in history. [CNBC]

  • July 2019: The U.S. women's soccer team won the 2019 World Cup and continue their legal fight for equal pay. [Vox]

  • Mar. 2020: U.S. Soccer Federation argued in federal court that “indisputable science” proved women were not as skilled as men and therefore shouldn't be paid as much. The president resigned afterward. [The New York Times]

  • May 2020: Judge ruled against the U.S. Women's Soccer Team, saying the claim of unequal pay based on gender discrimination should be dismissed. [The Washington Post]

chartoftheday 13462 where equal pay is considered most important nStatista



  • Why are female athletes not offered more money for sponsorships?
  • Read more about Billie Jean King's equal pay fight here.
  • What is the impact of the #metoo movement? Minimal or significant? See how #metoo is impacting the Afghanistan Football Federation here.
  • How does race factor into equal pay? Analyze the graph from Vox below, and read more here.
  • How do current U.S. wages factor into this story? Check the infographic from Statista below.
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