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Pay equality between the sexes in professional sport

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Posted by Cags R on 9 March 2012 at 2:00 PM

Less coverage, less sponsorship, less interest, less pay: how is it right? 

In 1968 the women machinists at Ford Dagenham went on strike in protest of pay inequality, we'd like to think that their campaign for equal pay is now the norm in modern society - but is it?

The sports which have been focussed on most frequently in the past have been sports like Golf and Tennis. These sports already have a large presense in the media and from the extra coverage have larger than average pay packets for the athletes. The prize money for the major grand-slams in tennis has, in recent years, been changed to be equal: Wimbledon changed their prize money policy in 2007 so men and women athletes received the same. This is a massive step forward when compared with the 1968 tournament when the women's prize money was £750 to the men's £2000.

This progress in tennis has not been affected in other sports however; even though golf has become one of the highest earning sports for women, there are still massive differences in the prize money - currently the LPGA are playing the HSBC Women's Champions 2012 in Singapore with a purse of $1,400,000, an impressive sum until compared to the men's PGA World Golf Championships in Miami which has a staggering $8,500,000!

In the Olympic year we are seeing higher press exposure to female athletes; perhaps it's because the ladies are the ones bringing back the gold from these events - Kelly Holmes' success at the Athens Olympics was a turning point of focus and was sealed when Rebecca Addlington emerged the people's favourite after Beijing. So this year we've had a more balanced scattering of 'up-and-coming' and 'ones-to-watch' articles.

So is it a once every 4 year privilege for women in sport? The Olympics is a brilliant stage for athletes to get media coverage, during the Olympic build up we see a far more balanced representation of the sporting world - showcasing a nation's top athletes of both genders - and the sad fact is that it's media attention that gets the cheques coming in.

Olympic athletes get the majority of their money from sponsorship, there aren't the salaried roles which you see in football, NBA, and NFL. Women's sport clubs can't afford to pay players when the clubs get no/little revenue from broadcasting games, especially in comparison to the men's coverage. US soccer was making headway in professional women's sport until this year Women's Pro Soccer had to suspend the 2012 season over a legal dispute.

No one is denying that progress has been made in women's sport; yesterday the site of the GB women's hockey team on billboard at my local train station was a refreshing change to an usually underexposed sport but to quote Deputy PM Nick Clegg in his International Women's Day message: 'We must not mistake progress for job done'.

So what can we do to change the balance and ensure equal pay for women in sport is changed from a debate into the norm?

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    Comments

    20131126112258-adrian

    Technically female tennis players are earning more than their male counterparts. Equal pay whilst drawing fewer fans and putting in far less legwork on the court over the course of the tournament, is that fair? I would like to see 5 set games for male and female players.

    20110327163404-zeeb

    Seems to be that the lack of funding for female sports is because there isn't as much media time spent on female sports, because there isn't as much interest. Says who? I don't watch female sports because it isn't available as readily as male sports, not because I'm not interested. Case in point being the Rugby Six Nations - England men get beaten by Wales, good game, I enjoyed it and look forward to this weeks game. But what I'd really like to have watched was the Women's equivalent game that was at Twickenham straight afterwards, and England beat Wales 33-0. England women keep winning the 6 nations yet where are the column inches, TV coverage, analysis etc?

    20140811112945-cags

    Similarly last year the England women's football team made it to the finals of the World Cup - did we have a parade? Was there ghastly bunting everywhere? Nope. They were actually defending champions having won in 2007 - did I know this as a topical fact the same as I know in 1969 the men won? No, I had to look it up.

    20131126112258-adrian

    When it comes to media coverage, it is very much dependant on demand. I don't think I would bet my house on a womens football game getting as much viewing stats as a mens one. So you can understand why the media dont dedicate column inches or TV airtime to womens sports, you need to address the question, why is there less public interest?

    encouraged this.

    20140811112945-cags

    Media coverage can dictate interest - just look at Koby 2012 - one piece to raise awareness can create interest. If the coverage isn't there then people who are interested don't have the chance to watch (Emma's rugby example being case and point!)

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    20130326103614-januaryjo

    This is not just a sporting issue - women earn on average $.70 for every $1 men earn, completely disappointing considering we make up more than half the workforce.

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    20110327163404-zeeb

    The problem is that any balance between media coverage of male or female sports (either now or in the past) we'll never be able to know for sure. What I would say is that I doubt there is huge difference viewing figures for women's and men's matches at Wimbledon, and equally in Athletics the share of audience is probably pretty equal, which surely backs up the point that when there's equal coverage - and the competition is at a similar time there is demand for both male and female sport.

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    20110327163404-zeeb

    I think that there's a whole other argument to be had about the lack of female media presenters, columnists, reporters etc in main stream media channels - and that they are often sidelined to lesser matches/events.

    Joanna R and Shalini S encouraged this.

    20130326103614-januaryjo

    Emma - do you think men are really interested in watching womens sports? Or do you think they would be, if an equal amount of emphasis was placed on them, and as you point out above a fair percentage of journalists and commentators were female? I think tennis is an exception.

    Shalini S encouraged this.

    20110327163404-zeeb

    Joanna maybe you're right, but I think the basis of what you're saying is part of the problem - that only men are interested in sports. Perhaps men wouldn't watch womens sports, but how many women who currently don't watch sports might start watching, or even participating, if there was more coverage. I think it's falling into old school gender stereotypes to say that men wouldn't watch women's sports - I'm sure that's true for a large amount of men, but some men (and women) just love sport, and would watch it whoever is participating. At the moment it's seen as a lesser sport just because women play it, if it was given the same coverage and therefore prestige I think this would change over time. Also I repeat my earlier point, there's simply no way to decide this argument (I might be totally wrong) without there at least being some main stream coverage on an equal basis. If there isn't the demand then that's one thing, but until women's matches get reported and shown with the same amount of time and space it's a vicious cycle of lack of supply and lack of demand.

    encouraged this.

    20141122134757-majicmonkey

    There are two issues – the first is media coverage and the fact that it is the only way (apart from lottery funding) for a sports person to generate income. The more media coverage the more money circulating in the sport and the more prize money available added to appearance money and sponsorship deal. The second issue is whether woman earn less from sport. The first point - You only have to look at the huge disparity between wages for top flight footballers in Scotland and England. The highest paid footballer in Scotland earns £16,000 a week ( I almost used the word ‘only’ and then corrected myself) while the highest paid footballer in England earns 15 x the amount (i.e. £250,000 a week). If the sport has a lot of media coverage there are staggering rewards. If there is no media interest, unfortunately a world class sportsman will be competing for only generous reward whether they are male or female. The problem for women is that the majority of female team sports do not generate enough interest for spectators or media. I would watch any sport however I’m not sure I would pay much money to watch a female team sports like football, cricket and rugby when there is a direct comparison with top level male equivalent. It is of a similar standing to lower league or non league level in it respective sport. And for that reason the financial rewards are slim. In Scotland with a small population and the inability to raise sufficient income through media rights the salaries of the players has diminished. If Football in Britain can’t generate sufficient media interest to sustain large salaries how is it possible to generate media interest, (with all the associated financial rewards ), for minority sports. On the second point if woman compete on the same stage as men the rewards are equal. Horseracing being a typical example. But in the case of female tennis which has an equal profile with male tennis as Adrian pointed out the women do not put in the same effort so their rewards are proportionally greater in a grand slam event. In golf, do women play off the same tee boxes as men? In high profile women’s sport where women compete over the same course and distance, and where there is equal media coverage the participants earn the equivalent of their male counterparts; athletics, swimming, skiing, cycling, gymnastics to name a few. The media profile has risen as a result of the participants being great at what they do and raising interest in their sport and themselves as equals with the men. On a final note, has any one heard of Jenny Thompson?.........She is the most successful female Olympic swimmer ever. Never heard of her?

    encouraged this.

    20130326103614-januaryjo

    This discussion has stayed with me these last few days - and I was just reminded that it was not until 1972 that Title IX legislation went into effect here in the US. Title IX guaranteed gender equality in education programs receiving federal funding. Which meant, suddenly, that schools had to start supporting and shelling out for girls’ sports. A lot of girls today have never heard of Title IX, which is awesome, because they’ve never known it any other way. In reality it is a relatively short window of time, 40 years, for women's sports to catch up to men's sports. It's also a re-education concept for sports fans via exposure and conditioning to learn to appreciate equally the skills and talents of both genders in the wide range of sports where there is now equal access. And, if you look at high school and college level athletics, we've in fact made dramatic improvement. I also looked at my own boys and thought, what role do I have in this? My job is to expose them to both genders in sport equally, so they have no bias. As they say, the children are the future.

    Nick B encouraged this.

    20140811112945-cags

    Improvements are definitely in progress, it's just a frustrating wait until women's sport 'catches up'!

    Nick B encouraged this.

    20141122134757-majicmonkey

    Some interesting statistics regarding the relationship of media exposure to spectator popularity in female sport....... According to research carried out by Sport England - relative to the number of people attending matches there are 12 times as many news articles including mentions of woman’s football a month compared with 3 times as many headlines relatives to the number of fans attending games for the men’s game. Average crowd at a Premier League game – 35,000 compared to 534 at an FA Women’s Super League game. Mean while last summer the Women’s World Cup was the most tweeted about event on the planet.

    Neil C encouraged this.

    Male

    Wow it's great that Tennis has come so far but what about all the other sports out there that women are so great at?!? .... And yes, it's so hard for women to generate sponsorship in sport, especially if they aren't going to portray the "sexy card" .... Come on world, it's time to change!

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