by Devon Davis
(Indianapolis Recorder)—According to Forbes, WNBA players make an average of $71,635 a year, while the average NBA salary is $6.4 million. Women have been fighting for equality in many spheres throughout history, longing for rights equal to their male counterparts.
Women were once not even permitted to participate in the Olympic Games. When women were finally allowed to participate in sports, many had to go through gender testing to assure they were not men trying to cheat their way around. Organizations, including universities, need to do more to advocate for female athletes, provide them with the support needed to achieve success and highlight their success, just as they do for male athletes.
Women athletes are rarely talked about with such reverence as Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Tom Brady, Tiger Woods, Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps and so many more. Even if you aren’t interested in sports, chances are you’ve heard those names but are less familiar with Billie Jean King, Katie Ledecky, Yolanda Griffith and Diana Taurasi.
WNBA players have called out the pay disparity between their league and the NBA for years. The New York Times reported earlier this year the league raised $75 million as it attempts to revamp its business model and address those concerns. The gender pay gap exists in almost every industry, and sports are no exception. But between particular sports, there are vast discrepancies in pay for men and women, ranging from tennis, where pay is comparable in terms of winnings. Some examples of this widespread wage gap highlight the institutionalized gender discrimination in sports.
It is also important to acknowledge the head start men’s sports have gotten in terms of the lucrative leagues in which they participate. Now, we are slowly seeing a change with more professional clubs introducing a women’s team as a counterpart to the commercially successful men’s team. This creates a level playing field where both the teams get the same coverage, same facilities, same media attention, multi-year contracts and sponsorship deals. It is obvious that personal branding and endorsements only come in when the players play in these lucrative leagues.
There still is a very long way to go to achieve gender equality across all sports, but it definitely is the need of the hour. The U.S. soccer team, which lost its legal battle over gender discrimination and reached a settlement agreement this year, have also made leaps of progress in public opinion, and one day, their names will be mentioned in the same breath as Billie Jean King and Venus Williams for their fight outside the field.
The staggering pay gap in sports for men and women is a result of the institutionalized gender discrimination that has caused, contributed to and perpetuated gender-based pay disparities against the players in nearly every aspect of their employment. As women and girls across the world continue to fight for equal opportunity in the workplace, the fields, the arenas and the courts have been and will continue to be no exception. #FreeBG
(Devon Davis is a public policy specialist at Bose Public Affairs Group. Contact him at email@example.com.)