Gender Pay Gap in sports


Sports are an important aspect in the society wherein a lot of reservations or boundaries in terms of religion, caste, creed, etc become obvious. But, in the recent times, with increasing professionalism, one factor that has taken centre stage is that of discrimination in terms of financial support to the women in sports. A lot of people have been a part of the discussions regarding gender equality in sports and how women should be encouraged to participate. This issue has been discussed largely, not only in India but all across the world. 

Woman from all across the globe have been a part of the world of sports for a long time but in India the scenario is quite different, where people have just started to accept that sports can be a legitimate career option for girls or women too and have finally started encouraging the participation of women in all kinds of sports. In order to achieve this, we need to first ensure that there is equal participation, followed by the discussion on equal payments for both the genders. But no one has ever reversed the theory and thought about the fact that how do we expect more participation from women if the difference in payment is so huge that too for the same level of any sport. Even though we have achieved the goal of equal participation in the other parts of the globe, the discussion and issue of gender pay gap remains relevant.

 This major discussion of gender pay gap sparked in 2015 when the winning team of football women’s world cup, USA was awarded 2 million dollars as the winning prize where as just a year before, in 2014, the men’s world cup winners, Germany were awarded 35 million dollars as the winning prize. This incident led to the start of the discussion among a lot of journalists and rightly became a nuisance for all the associations who were rightly held accountable. According to Forbes list of highest paid athletes, in 2017, there was only one woman in the top 100,   Serena Williams. The cause for concern just escalates as now in 2018 even Serena has lost her spot on the list, which provides evidence, contrary to popular belief that it is a male dominated list. One might like to believe that not only the list but sadly the entire sports market is dominated by men. Although the progress is that there has been an increase in the number of sports, offering equal prize money. About a decade ago, out of the 44 sports (offering prize money), only 9 of them offered equal prize money where as currently a total of 35 sports out of the 44 offer equal prize money to both. The remaining 9 include sports like Soccer, Cricket, Golf, darts, snooker and squash. Sports like football and cricket have been the worst cases with respect to the difference in payment. Let’s take the recent example of the FIFA world cup, the total money spent on the women’s edition was about 15 million dollars where as the total amount spent on the men’s tournament amounted up to 576 million dollars. The highest paid women in football, Alex Morgan of USA gets paid up to 1.9 million dollars per season of which more than 80% is earned through sponsorships and endorsements. The concern put forward by all the athletes is that why should there be a difference of payment when the level of sport is the same not to mention that the results of their achievements for their respective club.

The factors which have an impact on this payment gap are, less viewership, quality of game, less sponsorships and less revenue generation. According to a study by the University of Minnesota's Tucker Centre for Research on Girls and Women in Sports in 2014, only up to 4% of sports media coverage went to female sports, despite the fact that 40% of all participants were female. Also within the small amount of airtime received, the coverage of women's athletics is also more likely to be sexualized by portraying athletes off court and out of uniform, with an emphasis "on their physical attractiveness rather than their athletic competence", says Tucker Centre's director, Mary Jo Kane. Hence, many would argue that women earn less because the market dictates so, as female sports are "less popular" and "not as good to watch", and as a result they generate less media revenue. What has been noticed is that a lot of sports are trying to rush to the same channel for both men and women where the male demography is greater which results in less viewership for the women's sports. They all are trying to compete but in quite a predictable way. It is almost impossible for a women’s sport to gain viewership from a television channel in which the male version has already built its foundation. So, it’s better to select a channel which can give you the wanted reach as well as has a higher female demography. 

It’s not that the progress is not being seen, definitely there is some progress in terms of sponsorships as now they see a potential market and have started investing some huge amounts but it will take more time for sports like cricket, football and golf to start paying both men and women equally. 

Associations like the FIFA can actually use the amount generated by the men’s tournaments to invest in women’s football which will give results in future and will fastrack the process of development of women sports, same goes with ICC and BCCI in cricket too.