In the UK, there are laws against gender discrimination. You can’t pay a woman less simply because they’re a woman, leading many people to claim the gender pay gap is impossible in light of this. They often dismiss statistics such as men earning £1.32 more per hour than women because how can this be possible when the law prevents it?
This type of statistical reporting spreads confusion, giving the impression that a man could be paid £10 per hour while a woman only £8.68 for the same job. Rather, this statistic refers to lifetime earnings when things such as unpaid labour in the household, discrimination, child-rearing, and social norms contribute to women achieving lower-paid positions in the workplace and missing out on pay rises and promotions.
Star footballers get paid thousands of pounds more than their lesser-known and newer teammates. Wages are dictated by skill, popularity, and merit. But for women in the same sport, and others, there seems to be a significant gender pay gap. But some, like Ewan MacKenna, claim it’s because women’s sports just aren’t as popular as men’s.
In the list of the top 100 highest-paid athletes, there is just one woman: Serena Williams. She comes in at number 51, earning around (£50 million). The US women’s football team won the world cup in 2015 and received a £1.5 million reward. The 2014 winners of the men’s tournament were awarded £26.5 million.
In the last few years, many associations have come out in support of reducing this gap. But the problem sometimes tends to be a lack of funds to support many full-time contracts. Why is this?
Depending on the sport, earnings are dictated by how often an athlete competes, how often they win, their or their team’s overall popularity - a multitude of factors. With male sports being more popular with the public, it stands to reason that they’re getting more chances to compete. Women are making less money because they’re competing less.
This would explain the difference in earnings between genders. This trend, where women earn less because they participate less, ripples across most sports. And clubs may be unable to pay women as much as men because they tend to have smaller fan bases. But this doesn’t mean to say there is complete equity between men and women in sport.
We must consider the ways popularity and deal negotiations affect women in sport. What underlying reasons contribute to lower popularity? There are societal norms that encourage men to participate in sport while often deterring women and misrepresentations that female sports are ‘boring’. This will impact how much women eventually earn and their ability to negotiate higher pay.
Olympic athletes rely on sponsorships to be able to support themselves and buy expensive equipment. However, women get a fraction of the sponsorships that men do. Ernst & Young said they give less than 0.5% of their sponsorship money to women’s sports. It’s hard for women to compete to the same standard as men when they have a fraction of the budget and a fraction of the interest invested in men’s sports.
But there is one aspect of sport where the gender gap is visibly narrowing: reward money. A total of 83% of sports now reward men and women equally for achievements. One study found out of 44 sports who offer prize money, 35 pay equally. Cricket, ski jumping, cycling, football, and golf are among sports that still award women smaller prizes.
The gender pay gap in sport is a confusing topic. While some aspects are due to discrimination, others are a matter of participation and support from fans. Either way, it’s good to be aware of the challenges facing women who want to achieve in the world of sport so we can help them become inspirations to younger generations.
At OPRO, we want everyone to enjoy the same benefits with the same protection. We were the official mouthguard supplier to the gold medal winning GB Women’s hockey team at Rio 2016. And we have a number of female ambassadors we support. No matter who you are, what sport you play, or at what level, OPRO mouthguards offer complete protection from contact and injuries in sport. Take a look at our protection on our website.