Wage Gap Creates Inequality in Sports

Suzanna Graham, Staff Writer

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In the top 100 paid athletes worldwide, only one woman, tennis player Serena Williams, makes the list, ranking in the 51st spot. She makes a whopping €50 million less than soccer player Cristiano Renaldo, who holds the number one spot.

The wage gap, though affecting most industries, is especially relevant in sports because of the long hours, equipment costs, and all seasons training that athletes encounter throughout their athletic careers.

In 2017, the U.S. Women’s Ice Hockey Team decided to make a stand to fight for equal pay. The team announced that they would boycott the IIHF world championships if they were denied a pay that more closely resembled the pay of the men’s team. After reaching a deal, the women’s hockey team’s salary raised from $6,000 annually to $70,000 annually, a huge victory for the women’s team.  this boycott raised a lot of attention for the matter, catching the eyes of U.S. senators, women’s rights advocates, and the U.S. women’s soccer team, who fought for their own equal pay just a year prior, in 2016. Mrs. White, Prep’s assistant to student life and athletics, and also former ice hockey athlete, commented on the victory, saying that by closing their field’s wage gap, the hockey team “called for other programs to follow suit.”

For women’s hockey, low wages within the sport have created an unstable financial situations for the athletes, causing athletes to look for other jobs to financially support themselves. Additionally, lower funding for girl’s youth programs affects opportunities for these young athletes, creating unequal balance in sports between girls and boys at a young age.

One of the main arguments for the reasoning behind the wage gap is that women’s sports are less popular and fewer people watch the matches, compared to men’s sports. White commented that “a culture has to be created that celebrates women’s sports.” By supporting female athletes, White believes that that would make it harder for “sports governing bodies to deny [women] equal pay.”

Tarah Wheeler, an entrepreneur, keynote speaker and author of book Women in Tech, actively advocates for women to achieve equal pay. For women to achieve a more deserving salary, she gives two tips when discussing their pay with employers. First, she advises that women do not start the conversation by naming a number. She says that “chances are, if you name a number, you will either say a number too large and be seen as unrealistic or name a number too low and have your salary compromised.”

Another tip is to not agree to the first salary amount that is offered, as there are always other offers that may pay better. Wheeler believes that by women becoming educated on how to approach conversations about women’s salaries, then there is less of an opportunity for women to be paid more unfairly.

Sports teams still have a way to go to fully eliminate the wage gap, however these small victories within U.S. women’s sports teams are encouraging other women to call for their own equal pay. White says that “as more women, and women’s sports teams, continue to advocate for themselves and for each other it will encourage others to continue to fight for equal pay .”

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