Women: Lets up the pay to play
Forbes list of the highest paid athletes in the world has just been announced.
In the top 100 only ONE of these athletes is a women, the legend that is Serena Williams. With position 51 she is 44 places behind Roger Federer. Serena has won more grand- slams, won 3 more Olympic gold medals and has more tour level titles than Federer so how is she a whopping 44 places behind? Her income is £50m lower than Cristiano Ronaldo's who is the world's top earning sportsman of 2018. While I could talk about the shameful amount they get paid to kick a ball around for hours I will stick to the facts. This year for winning the world cup France took away a lovely $35m where as the women were playing for a $2m win, the year before was just $1. If you combined all teams together the men ranked up a whopping $385 with the women taking away $15. And did you even know England came 3rd in the 'women's' world cup? no us neither.
These are just a few examples of a massive gender pay gap that happens in every single sport there is out there. Recent research does suggests that gender income gap between female and male athletes has shortened over the past few years. A total of 83% of sports now reward men and women equal prize money, according to a study of 68 different disciplines published by BBC Sport, last June. "We are making progress, but it is happening at a glacial pace," says Fiona Hathorn, managing director of advocacy group Women on Boards. "The sport world is very, very male dominated still and the disparities in some sports are shocking."
The public are making a stand which is definitely good news. This year Billabong and the World Surf League faced criticism over the disparity in prize money between the male and female winners of a junior surfing tournament in South Africa. The winners were pictured holding up their price money next to each other, however Zoe Steyn's price money was half the amount of Rio Waida's for winning the same title. Will Hayden-Smith, WSL’s regional manager said the reason for the pay gap was simple, since the WSL came into existence in 2014, prize money for men and women has been at parity. However their is more prize money in mens surfing due to the difference in the amount of men doing the sport at a professional level.
However I question this, while its a valid point surely if we introduced equal pay more women could afford to take up a sport professionally creating a bigger selection of women competing. Its a big circle one that can only be broken by women being taken more seriously in sport. The simple truth is there’s less money in women’s sport. According to the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation (WSFF), just 0.5% of all sponsorship cash put into sport in the UK goes to women. Men’s sport attracts 61.1% of the market, with team sports hoovering up the rest.
Like tennis, the men do spend more time actually surfing. While mens' tennis matches are best of 5 sets, womens' are best of 3, meaning that they actually get more per hour of court time than men. The shortest path to a men's WCT event victory is to win 6 heats, versus 5 for the women. However does this justify the 44 players ranked higher than Serena? We think not I'm sure Serena would play another 2 sets for a couple more million.
In Newquay, the English Surfing Federation agreed to offer gender-equal prices in the Open Men and Women events at the 2016 English National Championships. “We just want to give the ladies a fair opportunity,” said ESF chairman Andy Sturt. “They’ll be surfing in the same conditions, on the same day, with the same amount of time, under the same rules, and paying the same entry fee. Isn’t it right and proper that we reward [the women] with the same amount of money as the gents?” Agreed, if they want women to surf at a professional level then this is the way to do it not push us away with the pay gap.
Sadly even though its 2018 and people think women are treated equally we are not. Lets take the big world of bikes for a second, surely men and women are treated equally here. Former British cyclist Nicole Cooke, who won the 2004 Giro Rosa and the Grande Boucle in 2006 and 2007, told a parliamentary select committee last year that cycling is a sport "run by men, for men". One of the biggest cycling races in the world, the Tour de France is just for men. In 2014 Marianne Vos, the overall winner of the women’s Giro d’Italia, the most important stage race on the women’s calendar, won just over £389. While the winner of the mens race received £156,000 not including stage wins and bonuses. Britain's former world champion Lizzie Deignan says a lot of women "may be put off speaking out about sexism because of reactions they have had and there is no doubt staying quiet is the easier option. I sometimes get frustrated that I am asked about politics rather than my performance," she told BBC Sport "But I am a passionate feminist and I understand people won't get to watch without me pushing for change with my voice as well as my legs."
Now its more important than ever to make a stand for equal pay not just for everyday jobs but for women in sport as well. The top ranking 100 just highlights the huge problem women still face and only we can do something about it. As pro mountain bike rider Amanda Batty said "If we’re going to change as an industry, we can’t look at specific mistakes people are making, we have to look at the core of the issue. And some of that is just about listening to women. Just listen. It’s a larger cultural thing. Don’t talk down to us. Don’t underestimate us or our capacity to understand."