Inequality in Sports

Serena Williams is the only female athlete on Forbes 'World's 100 Highest-Paid Athletes' list. (Reuters)

Women in sports have lower salaries and are less renowned than men in society

The rules in sports are the same for all players. However, female athletes are more likely to have lower salaries, fewer sponsors, poorer contracts and little to no media attention.

Gender discrimination is still present in most sports. The more popular the sport, the more money is drawn, and the more inequalities come forth between women and men.


Football is the king of inequalities

Football is probably the most popular sport and the one where gender inequality is bigger. As indicated in the GSSS global survey, there are 137,021 professional football players worldwide, compared to only 1,287 women who play professionally.

This massive difference in number is a factor to the difference in salaries. PSG player Neymar, for example, was paid 36.5 million euros last season: the same amount as 1,693 female players together in the French, German, English, American, Swedish, Australian and Mexican leagues.

Most players in lower categories do not receive any income. However, difference in salaries are also present in top leagues and competitions.

After winning the 2015 Women’s World Cup, the players of the United States were paid 1.6 million euros; whereas the men’s French team earned more than 30 million after winning the World Cup in Russia.

These differences in equality are repeated over time within the whole sports industry, though. The women’s league with the highest paying salary is WNBA, the professional women’s basketball league in the United States of America. Regardless, the highest-paid players in the WNBA earn only a fifth of the lowest salary in the NBA, the men’s league.


Fewer Sponsorships, Less visibility

The lack of sponsorships and advertising campaigns also contribute to the increasing gender gap.

Even though multiple brands and companies hire athletes to promote their products, few brands hire female athletes to become faces of their campaigns: most companies give preference to male sports stars.

The same is noted in mainstream media: much more time and space is invested in the lives of male stars as well as men’s only competitions than in women’s sports.

In Spain, for instance, only 5% of the press’s coverage is devoted to women athletes, despite the many triumphs of the women’s basketball team and remarkable female medalists in the Olympics Games.

For these reasons, female athletes have less support, are less popular, have less of an audience, and the problem becomes a fish that bites its tail.


Achieving equality

Governments, institutions, and sport federations are working to promote women in sports: there are women’s tournaments and women’s categories for almost all sport competitions, and just as many competitions as prizes for the winners.

The origin of inequality in sports is found in gender stereotypes and prejudices. Research conducted by Sant Joan de Deu Hospital in Barcelona, indicated that 80% of young girls do not meet the recommended amount physical activity by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Hence, to change the historical injustice of women in sports, we must start by changing today’s young generation of women.

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