Unfair Play

– Aryaan Anand 12 AICE P

It’s no big secret that women and men have been paid differently for the longest time. The gender pay gap exists in practically every industry, even with today’s rise in feminism and the economic independence of women. In some ways, these movements have acted as a catalyst for the change- gender-based income inequality has been reduced, and we have more women at the top of their respective professions than we have ever had.However, in a January reshoot of ‘All the Money in the World’, actress Michelle Williams was paid less than 1% (or $1000) of the $1.5 million her co-star Mark Wahlberg was. Obviously, there is great scope for further change to gender –pay discrimination.

One of the industries in which a huge gender pay gap still exists is sports. There have been attempts to reduce this gap in the last decade, the first of which was Wimbledon agreeing to offer equal prize money to the winners of both Men’s and Women’s tennis tournaments. When Wimbledon took this monumental decision 10 years ago, only 9 out of 44 sports that remunerated their athletes followed suit. That number is now 35. However, among the 9 remaining sports that still pay men and women unequally, 4 are the most popular sports in the world – football, cricket, basketball and, golf.

In 2016, the US Women’s National Soccer Team earned only 44% of what their male counterparts earned, despite winning the world cup, being far more successful than the Men’s team and bringing in a much greater revenue than the Men’s team. Last year, in golf, the men’s world number 143, Mackenzie Hughes ($2.36m), earned more than the women’s number two Sung Hyun Park ($2.34m). The highest paid male Indian cricketer received a contract worth 7 crore this year, while the highest paid female cricketer received a contract worth 50 lakh. The WNBA’s Most Valuable Player in 2017, Sylvia Fowles, was paid $109,000 while Leandro Barbosa, a player who was waived from his team’s roster for the 2017-18 season, earned $500,000, and he didn’t even play a minute. These are just a few of the many examples of this trend in professional sports.

There is a general acceptance that the gender pay gap is a by-product of the increasingly commercial nature of sports. Female sports gets only 4% of sports media coverage despite the fact that 40% of all participants in sport are female. This has led to many arguing that women earn less because the market dictates so, as female sports are “less popular” and “not as good to watch”, which results in lesser media revenue. The common misconception that female sports are not “as good to watch” arises from the preconceived notion that female sports involve less skill than male sports. This notion is based on the difference in physical characteristics of male and female athletes, which people assume to be a reflection of skill. The differences in physical attributes are down to purely biological differences between the sexes and should not be taken to be a measure of skill. If you have been following women’s sports, you would agree that the skill involved is just as high as the skill in men’s sport.

In an interview in 2017, WNBA player Nneka Ogwumike talked about how she plays overseas to supplement her earnings. She also mentioned that the majority of the players in the league have degrees and either work on the side or have started their own businesses. This is not the only example of women in sports having to work different jobs. Ellyse Perry (cricket and football) and Suzie Bates (cricket and basketball) have played multiple sports professionally. Perry has represented Australia at an international level in both sports since the age of 16 while Bates currently plays cricket for New Zealand having represented her country in Women’s basketball at the 2008 Olympics.

As mentioned earlier, sports is not the only industry in which the gender pay gap is prevalent. Women in most professional industries have to work harder than men in the hope of earning as much as they do. Many campaigns have been launched in recent years to reduce the pay gap but there is still work to be done in order to ensure complete equality. The next time you see an ad on TV about women’s sport or you hear about a women’s tournament, I urge you to tune in and watch it. Let’s all try contributing towards helping female athletes getting the credit, recognition and pay they deserve.

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