Gender Inequality In Sports And Ways To Solve It

Categories: Gender Equality

This essay will pursue the issue of wage discrimination among professional athletes. Are women in sports, at a disadvantage explore what could be the possible reasons for this, with a review of concepts, that were covered in this course. An analysis of both sides of the issue will be performed, which will lead to a conclusion. It will also go on to discuss the improvements observed in recent years and explore some other possible recommendations to improve the situation in the future.

Sport from the very beginning the focus of sorts has been on males. In primate society, your role was dictated by your gender physical prowess was viewed as an innately male domain. The earliest documentation dates back over 300 years ago of these sports used as preparation for war or hunting, for example, throwing spears, stakes, and rocks were tasks that were performed by men.

In the year 776 ancient Greece introduce formalized games the Olympic games, which included sports such as human and chariot races, wrestling, jumping, disk, and javelin throwing.

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there were performed by males to show their ability, while women were prevented from participating and were relegated to being mere spectators. After some time women were allowed to participate, it began slowly with the first few female participants in the 1900 games and gradually increased over time, it was, however, not until 2012 that all sports in the Olympic games had a female representative in all sports in the summer game for the first time in the history of the games.

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Professional sports are a multi-billion industry. It can be argued that at every level of the sports industry exist a blatantly obvious wage gap. When comparing the wages of males and females in the same sport, it is quite staggering. Beatrice Frey, sports partnership manager at UN Women states that only in the sports industry that a male player can be a billionaire while the women players receive minimum wage. Some of the worst offenders can be found in football (soccer), tennis, and basketball.

Football (soccer)

Ronaldo and Messi deserve every penny, of course, as they are arguably two of the best, most successful players to ever play soccer. The top players in the world Cristiano Ronaldo earns $91 million and Lionel Messi earns $81 million. The women's football team received only a fraction of what their male counterparts got in the 2015 World cup won the US women's football team won and received $2 million while the winning of the male tournament goes a whopping $35 million. A study done by Women on Boards revealed that the US women's team made less than a quarter of the prize money the male US team received, and they were knocked out of the tournament. Many reasons contribute to gender pay inequality in sports. The world of professional sports is a reflection of the inequality that occurs in society. Even with improved access and there still, lie obstacles that limit women to be paid equally to men, In this section, we will explore some of the reason by this barrier exist.


There was recently an advertisement that highlighted the wage inequality that exists between male and female players basketball players in the United States of America (USA). All-star guard Skylar Diggings-Smith, 3-time first America team, becoming her school's all-time leader in points, steals, most free throws, triple-doubles, and minutes played, with the most decorated athlete for that year did not receive the best pay but made only a percentage of her male counterpart. With all her accomplishments, she was offered the US $40,000 while the male player's contract was US $4 million.

The players of the National Basketball Association (NBA) the male league and the Woman National Basketball Association (WNBA) female league. In 2017 the average WNBA player was $71,635 US while a veteran player who has been in the league more than six years receive on the average US $113,500. Meanwhile, in the NBA, the minimum salary of US $838,464.

The NBA and WNBA draft pick, where the new players are selected for the league, Deandrea Ayton earns $5,091,500 next season in comparison to Aja Wilson, who will earn a little over $50,000. The top-tier NBA superstar LeBron James and Steph Curry are both receiving $32 million a year.


Tennis is now a trendsetter in gender pay equity, it is one of the few sports that try to have to pay equal tournament prize money to the winner of the male and female tournaments. But it seems that only applies to bigger tournaments such as the Grand Slams and the U.S Open. For example, Roger Federer and Serena Williams won the Australian Open championship and both receive 4 million for their effort.

This doesn’t seem to be the case for smaller events, as there are discrepancies in that the New York Times reports that female tennis players earn 80 cents for each dollar earned by a male player. That is a $120,624 gap between the male and female players. Put it into context a male player on average makes $120,624 more than a female player of the same ranking. It's a substantial gap, but at least they’re trying.

Systemic discrimination and sexism

Sports have always been for males, it is encouraged and reinforced by our culture and we are socialized to believe that the way it has been and that the way it should remain. For example, in football, the governing body International Federation of Association Football (FIFA), helps perpetuate the systematic discrimination, that leads to erroneous pay inequalities.

FIFA is determined by them for both tournaments, they sanctioned a paid out $15 million to women's world cup while giving the men 40 times more of $576 million in prize money. Another example is the male 2014 world cup, teams that lose in round 16 received a $9 million bonus, while the winners of the women's tournament received $2million.

The lack of women hold position senior positions in sports organizations has also discriminated in sports, it was reported that the number of female members of sports governing bodies is below 30 %. Women on Boards reports in September 2016 revealed that 18% on international sports federations, 16.6% on national Olympic committees, and 8 countries only have more than 40% women on their national Olympic committees – Malawi, Australia, Bermuda, Norway, New Zealand, Kiribati, Samoa, Tuvalu -10 countries have no women at all.

The term 'gender marking' (Messner, Duncan, & Jensen, 1993), can be defined as the verbal and visual presentation of male athletes and men’s sports as being the norm while rendering female athletes and women’s competitions secondary status. For Example, FIFA women's world cup and women's NCAA final four. There is no qualifier attached to the male sporting events because it is viewed that the male event is the standard.

Mismatched media coverage

Professional sports are a business and like all businesses, one of their main objectives is to make a profit. And media coverage plays a major role.

University of Minnesota's Tucker Centre for Research on Girls and Women in Sport 2014, conducted a study and found that although 40% of all participants were female, they only received 4% of sports media coverage.

Pay equity advocators to suggest women's sports and media coverage are locked in a conundrum ‘self-perpetuating, 'chicken and egg' cycle.’ The public would be more likely to patronize female sports if there was more coverage, but will the media provide coverage without more public engagement from the public to justify investing in female sports with the additional expense of marketing and promotion.

The media is also a tool used by the dominant group to further along with its narrative that, sports are for males and females are not. The coverage of female sports is more likely to be an emphasis on the ‘physical attractiveness than on athletic prowess’ says Tucker Centre's director Mary Jo Kane. this idea is supported by Daniels's 2009 postulation that media reinforces the patriarchal sovereignty on the focus on females’ femininity and heterosexuality which serves to degrade their athletic accomplishments. Daddario 1997, Duncan and Messer 1998; Kane 1988 believe that media coverage is provided to women that convey the idealized image such as grace, beauty, and glamour. This coverage highlights their sex appeal instead of their athlete accomplishments. While sex appeal and femininity instead of their athletic accomplishments while Billings et al., 2004; Fink & Kensicki, 2002 contends that emphasis is placed on their roles outside of sports just as a wife, girlfriend, and mother.


Tatum (1997) put the idea that dominates and subordination groups. The dominant group (males) and the subordinate group are female. The dominant group gets to define the norms and write their narrative that others must follow. Males who identify with this label internalize this belief. The realization gives males the power to control members of the subordinate group. As a result, inequalities will go unnoticed by the dominant group, and the stereotypical belief that males lead females to focus on how different they are from the norms and doubt their abilities and equal rights to sports.

Some of these norms are that males are better at sports because they are stronger, faster, and more aggressive. But this behavior goes against the gender ideology, of what is considered feminine.

In the FIFA Women World Cup 2019 the match that the most attention was played between the USA and Thailand. the USA team won by an astonishing amount 13-0. There was a global outcry that the USA team displayed was disgraceful, and some even commentators suggested that the USA stop scoring. One commenter Kaylyn Kyle “stated that as a Canadian we would never think of doing something like that …. For me, it's disrespectful disgraceful”.

But would these remakes be asked if it was a men's team that has won by this amount? This is a world cup where the best team comes to prove their ability and skill, but the USA team is now been asked to play nice and be more ladylike and not score too many goals or rejoice in their accomplishment as it will hurt the other team feelings. This is a game in which goal difference is very important as the team progresses in the tournament.

There has been a similar occurrence of high goal difference but the reactions have been very different for the men for example in the Portsmouth vs Reading match on 29th September 2007, the Premier league describe their seven-point victory as “there is the occasional landslide once every few seasons”, for example, Manchester City vs Manchester United 2011 Manchester Derby 6-1 was described as demolition Or Bayern Munich’s 5-1 crushing of Arsenal in the 2016/17 Champions League. These goals were described in more masculine tones, and the player praised for their skill, but never once was there a call for restraint from the men like they did with the women

Are males and females equal when it comes to sport, if not the same it is in the corporate world where it is easier to make a comparison between men and female workers that they are doing equal work, so they deserve equal pay. In sports it is not so, men and women are not equal physically. If they were truly equal, then why is there segregation of sports? Segregating gender provides female athletes the opportunities to excel in their league.

Women and men do not compete against each other professionally in most sports, because they are not equal, and therefore should not be compensated equally. The top male athletes in most fields will almost always outperform the top female athletes in that field: running, swimming, soccer, basketball, and, weight lifting ( For example the US women's team which is regarded as one of the best female teams lost to under 16 male club team 5-1 and they also lost to under 17 male national teams 8-2. If there is a physical difference exists between men and women, there will always be a difference in their performance, and their compensation should reflect that.

Hence, many would argue that women earn less because the market dictates so, as female sports are 'less popular', receives less coverage and less prestige ', and as a result, they generate less media revenue. Revenues major difference between male and female sports. The bulk of revenues come from sponsorships. According to the Wall Street Journal “Female soccer players are paid less because their sport makes less, there was $17 million in sponsor revenue for this year's women's World Cup compared to $529 million for the 2014 men's tournament. America's winning women earned a larger share, about 11%, of the money their tournament made this year from sponsors than the victorious German team, who got just 6.6% of the sponsor revenue from last year's men's World Cup as their prize”. There are differences in their pay structures and their negotiated collective bargaining agreements.

The men seem to be able to negotiate better deals with their federation and leagues compared to the women. There are earnings made by male sports stars are the result of a willingness to shill, worldwide appeal, better agents, and, playing a marketable sport.

There is the case of Serena Williams ($13 million) and Maria Sharapova ($23 million). Williams at the time was ranked number one and top of her sport, winning several championships and tournaments but Maria Sharapova was the highest-earning female for that year, without winning one tournament.

They are numerous differences between the men's and women's teams to question if there is equity between them. The genders play the sports differently and at times have different rules. These differences lead to more interest and coverage of male sports, for example in hockey women are not allowed to make a direct body check. If a woman is caught doing so there is a penalty. This lack of physical contact is one reason that the claim that women's hockey isn’t enjoyable, compared to men's is more exciting because the men can body check.

In football, sport expects to found the game is slower and the general style of play is different, less technical compared to men, there is less disruption in the game, fighting, swearing, and fouls fighting.

In basketball there are also some differences, for example, the size of the ball ranges from 28 1/2 to 29 inches for the women while the men are between 29 1/2 and 30 inches. The ball is smaller, so it is easier for women to handle the ball. There is also a difference in the style of play, women depend on their personnel, while the men tend to focus on scoring, mostly three-pointers, and dunking that whips up the spectators in a frenzy. The NBA's three-point line varies from 22 to 23 feet 9 inches while the WNBA arc measures 20 feet, 6 1/4 inches.

What can be done?

Culture change

For real improvement in sports, there needs to be a complete paradigm shift in society. The culture of systemic discrimination against a female in sports. The change has to start with engaging young children and teaching the lesson that there is a place in sport for both genders that both are equal and to increase the participation of females.

Another method that can be used in creating a gender-neutral and not-segregate sport in sports may have a positive effect on a girl can increase girl self-esteem and embrace physical activity as a normal activity for girls to engage in.'If we are closing the gap in the long term, we should be working with young girls to help them change their behavior, understand that sport is fun and it's something they are entitled to just as much as the boys,' says Ruth Holdaway Chief Executive of Women in Sport.

Merging the tournaments

Since there is an issue around the cost of hosting a female or male tournament. And given a choice, the male tournament might win out. A compromise is to merge tournaments to increase visibility for the female team, the spectators, and the sponsors there is the additional benefit it will reduce the administrative and logistic cost of hosting two.

The change in the sponsorship model is one way to level out the pay parity between the male and female players. It is a good investment for any astute corporate citizen to sponsor a female team, it increases the profile of an organization that believes in female sports and female gender equality. Most professional sports leagues and federations are ignoring 50% of the population by focusing solely on the men team they should be opening more opportunities for women and building a new revenue stream. This is an unexploited market, and from a purely economic standpoint, it is just foolish to ignore the potential for profit and the possible spin-off effect for the improvement and equality of female sports.

More females on the boards

More female executives on the board of the league and federation. With more women on the board, they would be a part of the deciding making process. Having a female executive can act as a role model, and provide mentorship and networking for other women that there is a place in sports for women, that will champion the issue that affects women that are not noticed by male board members. They can champion the causes of women and empower and encourage the next generation of female athletes.

Updated: Feb 02, 2024
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Gender Inequality In Sports And Ways To Solve It. (2024, Feb 02). Retrieved from

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