The gender pay gap has been widely publicised in recent years, with discrepancies between pay for men and women found in companies across the globe. There are inconsistencies in most areas, but sport is the one which has really hit the headlines.

Why is there a gender pay gap in sports?

The current disparity has its roots in Victorian society, which viewed sport as a masculine endeavor. As such, women were not encouraged to play sports, and lauded sports people were men. This situation, although changing, remains to a certain extent with men on average more likely to be encouraged to play sports than women. In fact – believe it or not – it was not until the 2012 London Olympics that every country’s delegation included a female competitor. This may be startling to learn, but the outdated view that sport is masculine still lingers today.

Which sports have the largest pay gap?

After the Women’s World Cup this summer, football was under the spotlight. The winning team received prize money of £3.2m which, although double the prize money of the previous tournament, was still almost ten times less than the men’s prize money of £29m. It is often argued that the huge difference in award is down to increased revenue from the larger audience that men’s sports have – however, the men’s and women’s World Cup rights are generally sold as a package.

How is the pay gap affecting sport?

Using the football analogy once more, a 2017 report found that 88% of players in the Women’s Super League in England earn less than £18,000 a year. To put this into perspective, the average player in the men’s Premier League earns approximately £50,000 a week. Why does this matter? Well, the same report found that 90% of players were considering cutting short their careers in order to find a higher paying job or start a family. This hinders the growth of the sport, and the lack of investment in and support of female players has wide reaching consequences for the current and next generation of footballers. 

This situation is mirrored across the sporting arena, with a few exceptions, leading to a dearth of talent.

Which sports are doing it right?

Tennis has had equal prize money across the board for men and women for several years now, boosted and encouraged by some high profile female players. In fact, the US Open has had equal prize money since 1973. Many more sports are following this example, but the highest profile ones, such as football and cricket, are lagging behind.

Is prize money the only issue?

No. As well as disparity in prize money, salaries for female athletes are less and it is generally more difficult for them to achieve high paying sponsorship deals.But, things are changing – particularly with the advent of social media which has meant that women can promote themselves, rather than waiting to be approached.

What next?

In many sports, the culture is already changing and this is being picked up by advertisers, who are getting attention from the public for campaigns featuring female athletes. But greater change is still needed; a shift in perception which will allow future generations of women to compete and excel with the same opportunities that men have.