As I’m working on this post, I’m still reminiscing on the terrific performance that the United States Women’s Soccer Team put together at the 2019 Women’s World Cup. In spite of the challenges that teams like France, England, and the Netherlands posed, not to mention critics of their celebrations and some of their opinions, the U.S. Women still pulled it off!
There came a certain point, however, when the reminiscing turned to a different topic: the gender pay gap in sports. At times, it felt like the U.S. Women were fighting for more than winning the tournament—they were fighting for respect, and to be paid equally as compared to the men.
And, while I support the fight for the U.S. Women to be paid equally to the U.S. Men, this conversation about massive gender pay gaps need to expand beyond soccer and to all sports. Here’s the thing: while the focus has been on the glaring gender pay gap between the U.S. Men and the U.S. Women in soccer, this pay gap extends to nearly every other sport, with the possible exception of tennis.
In terms of where the blame lies for this gap, I think that there is plenty of blame to go around:
- Some blame should go to a lack of advertisement and coverage of most women’s sports, as compared to men’s. There was, I thought, a good amount of advertisement for the Women’s World Cup and for women’s tennis. But outside of those two sports, where is the visibility of women’s sports in terms of TV advertising and coverage? I know—often, it wasn’t and isn’t visible. The visibility is just not comparable to the men right now. That, of course, affects revenue, because visibility leads to sponsorship opportunities, which leads to revenue.
- Some blame should go to us, the consumers, for just not caring as much about women’s athletics as we do about men’s athletics. Prize money and other money earned by athletes (through contracts, endorsements, etc.) is extremely dependent on the amount of revenue a sport generates. And the amount of revenue a sport generates depends on factors like ticket sales, merchandise sales, concession sales at games, and television ratings (which in turn helps determine the amount of money sports generate from advertisements, the amount of money sports generate from television deals, etc.). We as consumers simply haven’t invested in women’s sports at the level we often have with the men. It is no wonder, then, that the women usually get paid less than the men.
- In the absence of #1 and #2 (and oftentimes, even with the presence of points #1 and #2), blame goes to governing bodies for maintaining systemic gender inequality. The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team falls into this blame group. They get the coverage, and they get the revenue, yet they don’t get paid equally. This has actually happened in other women’s sports before—tennis, which seems to have taken great strides towards pay equality at least in its major tournaments, had a situation for decades where they got the exposure and the revenue, but not the equal pay.
No doubt, women have come a far way with sports in the last
25 years. Just in that time, there has been the establishment of a women’s
basketball league, multiple iterations of a women’s soccer league, increased
attention on the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team, and an increased exposure of women’s
sports in general. However, we have a long way to go until we achieve true
gender equality in pay, and true gender equality in sports in general. May we
not stop the push for gender equality in sports. May we take follow the lead of
the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team, who are four-time World Cup champions and
advocates for gender equality.
 Honestly, I would even be supportive of the women being paid more than the men. The women have earned more revenue than the men, plus the women won the World Cup while the men didn’t even make their World Cup (losing to the likes of Trinidad and Tobago in the process).
 It should expand beyond sports, quite frankly. But for the purposes of this post, I am sticking to sports.
 Though if I’m wrong, please correct me.