Pay inequality still exists for female athletes [column] | Local voices

Inequality poisons the lives of women everywhere, and female athletes are no exception. The difference between what female professional athletes earn and their male counterparts is one of the biggest issues of inequality in sport.

A fair and achievable way to address the wage gap is for sports organizations to allocate the same percentage of their revenue to salaries for women’s and men’s professional leagues and teams.

Inequality was at the forefront of the tennis world in the 1970s, with icons like Billie Jean King working for equality. Since then, gender equality in tennis has been virtually achieved, with four of the biggest tennis tournaments having equal prize money for women and men.

Unfortunately, other sports lack equality, especially in salaries. In women’s professional leagues, a smaller percentage of total revenue is spent on salaries, resulting in many female athletes not earning a living wage.

According to an article by Rebekah Box on the Athlete Assessments website, most female professional basketball players need to play in multiple leagues throughout the year in order to have a sustainable income. Because there is no percentage match for women’s and men’s leagues, female athletes have to overwork themselves compared to men.

If percentage matching were to be implemented in all women’s sports, all top athletes could earn a well-deserved living income.

When athletes on women’s teams don’t earn an equal percentage of total earnings, league owners and officials say they see women as inferior.

In the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the winning team received $2 million, or 2.7% of the tournament’s total revenue. In the previous year’s men’s tournament, the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the winning men’s team received $35 million, or 7.3% of the event’s earnings. FIFA and other major sports organizations should not want to be perceived as valuing women less than men.

It could be argued that it wouldn’t be plausible for women’s professional teams to invest so much money in wages – that women’s teams not being able to operate because of ‘equality’ would actually be a step backwards rather than a step towards equality.

But men’s professional sports organizations and teams can step in to help close the gap. The Norwegian men’s football team made the sacrifice of being paid less so that the women’s team could receive equal pay in 2017.

It is plausible that male athletes make sacrifices, because equality is never without sacrifices. The real problem, however, is still with sports organizations, not male athletes. Giant strides can be made for female athletes, and women in general, if sports organizations make match percentage a reality.

Morgan Martin is in grade 10 at Conestoga Valley High School.

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