Inquiry Question:

What Impact does Income Disparity Between Female and Male Athletes have on Equality?

Alisha Paul

In the past, women’s participation in all aspects of sports was limited. Over the last century, the role of women in society has changed from submissive wife, mother and daughter, to educated, working, independent women (Temertzoglou & Challen, 1964).

Currently, women of all ages compete in a vast range of sports at all levels from local recreational, to intercollegiate competition, to the Olympic and professional ranks (Temertzoglou & Challen, 1964). However, female athletes do not receive equal salary as their male counterparts.

Just take a look at some of surprising facts about salaries in professional sports:

For the PGA tour, $256 million was the total prize money, which is more than five times that of the LPGA tour, $50 million (Frankl, 2005).

For a WNBA player in the 2005 season, the minimum salary was $31,200, the maximum salary was $89,000, and the team salary cap was $673,000 (Frankl, 2005). However, NBA players in the 2004-2005 season, the minimum salary was $385,277, the maximum salary was $15.355 million, and the team salary cap was $46 million (Frankl, 2005).

Female athletes finishing in third place in the 2003 Women's World Cup, each U.S. women's national soccer team member was awarded $25,000 (Frankl, 2005). They would have received $58,000 if they had won the Cup (Frankl,2005).

The U.S. men's national soccer team members received $200,000 each for reaching the quarterfinal of the World Cup in 2002 (Frankl, 2005).

Venus Williams, right, and Roger Federer won respective Wimbledon singles titles in 2005 and 2007, but Venus didn't receive equal prize money until '07 ("Nine for IX", 2014).

Imagine you're a little girl. You're growing up. You practice as hard as you can, with girls, with boys. You have a dream. You fight, you work, you sacrifice to get to this stage. You work as hard as anyone you know. And then you get to this stage, and you're told you're not the same as a boy. Almost as good, but not quite the same. Think how devastating and demoralizing that could be. -- Larry Scott's recollection of Venus Williams' remarks at July 2005 Grand Slam Committee meeting ("Nine for IX", 2014)

Title IX is a section of landmark in Educational Amendments of 1972 (Brake, 2001). It is a piece of American legislation that prohibits gender discrimination of any kind in schools and was mainly significant regarding athletic policies at all levels of educational institutions (Brake, 2001).

It allows girls and women in sports to have the same and equal physical education opportunities that men have (Brake, 2001). Also, looks at financial assistance to see if money is being divided equally between female and male sports (Brake, 2001). Furthermore, to ensure that the same sport teams are available to both genders, the sport is divided equally in terms of interest and skill (Brake, 2001). Most of all, it was enforced to ensure that equality exists in all areas of physical education and to encourage young girls to participate in sports (Brake, 2001).

However, a 1997 study of almost 800 Division 1-A schools revealed that female athletes received almost $143 million less scholarship money than male athletes during the 1995-96 year (Brake, 2001).

Even though, Title IX legislation requires schools to provide equal opportunity and funding to male and female sports programs in some cases it doesn’t happen (Brake, 2001).

In another case, budget cuts to a women’s team resulted in a net saving of $62 000 per year whereas the cuts for a men’s team resulted in a net saving of $16 000 per year (Brake, 2001). According to this study, the reason for disparity is male teams have a stronger donor base of supportive alumni (Brake, 2001).

This can be discouraging to young female athletes and could stop them from participating in sports due to the lack of resources.

Unfortunately, the women's professional sports doesn't have a Title IX equivalent to fall back on for support. Female athletes are lagging well behind men's sports in prize money, sponsorship commitments, and endorsements.

It is said that the reason for income disparity is lack of interest among sponsors and the public. The Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation (WSFF) reported that in 2013 women’s sports received 7% of coverage and 0.4% of the total value of commercial sponsorships (Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation, 2013).

According to sponsors, to make a sport successful, it needs a balance of consumer, media and commercial appeal (Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation, 2013). If there were more sponsorship and media coverage then women’s sport would be more popular (Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation, 2013).

Media outlets and sponsors retort that if women’s sport attracted more interest in the first place then they would invest more time and money in it (Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation, 2013).

Due to the lack of sponsorship many female athletes, even those who represent their countries, are paid less than male colleagues (Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation, 2013).

What Can We Do?

  • Attend women's sporting events
  • Support companies that advocate for women's athletics
  • Encourage television stations and newspapers to cover women's sports
  • Sign up to coach a girls' sports team, whether at the recreational or high school level
  • Encourage young women to participate in sports
  • Become an advocate

Income disparity is still around in most sports like golf, basketball and many more. However, there are two examples in sport where the income disparity no longer exists.

In the year of 2005 and 2006, Jelena Prokopcuka won the New York City Marathon. She was the sixth woman in the history of the race to achieve consecutive wins. Both years the women's winner took home $100,000 plus a bonus of $30,000, equaling the largest purse in marathon history (Women's Sport Foundation, 2011).

The year of 2007, Wimbledon announced for the first time, it will provide equal prize purses to male and female athletes. All four Grand Slam events now offer equal prize money to the champions (Women's Sport Foundation, 2011).

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