Gender Wage Gap Within Sports

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Updated: Feb 24, 2021
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Women have always been thought of as inferior to men. Before World War II, women were only to birth children, raise them, and perform household duties (Garris & Wilke, 2017). Everything started to go up hill when women gained the right to vote in 1920. After World War II began in 1939, local factories found themselves in a deficit of workers. Most of the men were fighting in the war, and factories had to rely on women to fill their job needs. Women of this time quickly realized they were worth more than just stay at home mothers and continued to flourish in the work force even after the war was over. After the war had finished men began to come back to work, and the women noticed they were doing the men’s work almost better than the men themselves, this resulted in the women comparing wages. Around 1950, just a few years after World War II ended, women on average were making 64 cents for every dollar earned by a man. This number has been up and down over the years, according to the National Committee on Pay Equity, in 2017 it is currently up to 80 cents per dollar. These stats are why the gender-based wage gap is not a new topic. There has been discussion about gender discrimination for many years.

President John F. Kennedy passed the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and President Lyndon B. Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act in 1964 in hopes to eliminate this specific form of discrimination (Garris & Wilkes, 2017). Even though some of these forms are still very common, gender-based pay is high on that list. Before the Civil Rights Act was passed, it was the social norm and completely legal to pay women less than men, simply because they were women. Even though it is not legal anymore, a great deal of companies still follow this social norm. When women are hired for certain jobs, there is a salary history question. Watkin 2018 states; when a woman fills out this question, the employer will usually add 5% as an incentive to take the job. However, women who leave this question unanswered on average make 1.8% less than the woman who answers. That sounds like a lose, lose situation, either answer the question and make a little more money, but still less than your male counterpart, or don’t answer the question and make less than everyone. On another note, if a woman complains that she is not being compensated enough, the employer will find a man that has the same qualifications and background as the woman and use his salary as a guideline to make the appropriate changes.

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The phrase hegemonic masculinity has been thrown around for the last 15 years, it is defined as, the formation of gender practices that support the dominance of men and the subservience of women in society, by Connell & Messerschmidt (2005). Connell & Messerschmidt believed strongly that the gender order is real and in full affect. The many different masculinities and femininities that exist instill how this is still a man’s world. Gender practices are rarely changed without approval from very powerful men. Gender practices are also a big reason women struggle to get higher level jobs. DuPree, Quarterman, & Willis (2006) stated; a similar group of ideas of why women may struggle to get a higher level job are; the competition is more qualified, family obligations get in the way, simply being a woman, and that they lacked the effort and time to succeed in the position. These ideas were more common in the late 1980’s, however, some of them may still get in the way today. In a lot of places, women are still seen as stay at home mothers and incompetent of having a high-level job.

There is discrimination in the business world, so we knew there was bound to be discrimination in the sports world. Knoppers, Bedker Meyer, Ewing, & Forrest (1989) explain that there is a general assumption that men are more qualified to coach than women. There are 3 ways that this is shown; first, both now and in the past, sports have been dominated by men. Secondly, the number of male sports or men in sports, shows that they know more about sports than women. Thirdly, most coaching workshops are targeted towards women, since they are “unqualified” and need to be taught (Knoppers et. al., 1989).

The National Collegiate Athletic Association women’s basketball didn’t have its first tournament until 1982, this was almost 50 years after men’s basketball had their first tournament in 1939 (Kian, Vincent, & Mondello, 2006). A large reason there is a difference in wages between genders is that men’s sports have been around a lot longer than women’s sports. For instant, the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) was being discussed in 1996, in 1997 it was up and running with eight teams. By the year 2000 there were 16 teams, however, in 2010 the teams were whittled down to a solid 12 (Berri & Harris, 2006). Amongst those 14 years, there were many profits and many letdowns. In 2014 the WNBA had an estimated revenue of about $35.2 million, while their payroll costs were only around $11.5 million (Berri & Harris, 2006). With a difference of $23.7 million dollars, where did it all go? Now since we are talking about the WNBA and not the National Basketball Association (NBA), it is difficult to find full information about revenue, salaries, and costs. Sadly, we have no idea where all the money went. Comment by kristin terry: Idk what this is

Wage Differences Between Men and Women Coaches

Many female coaches have been asking the question, how do colleges and universities evaluate a person’s background and figure out the appropriate compensation for the job title “college coach?” (Giampetro-Meyer, 2000). Brook & Foster (2010) stated that since the NCAA basketball coaches, head and assistant, are all hired to do similar tasks, it is easy to see the gender compensation differences. Dunn (2013) presents these differences, the average male and female head basketball coach’s salaries for the 2012-2013 season were $250,000 and $175,000, correspondingly. Assistant coach’s salaries were $96,000 and $65,000, respectively. Employers will say that they are not discriminating towards women, they are just paying for the different labor markets. Brook & Foster (2010) found in their study that women’s sports teams do not bring in as much money as men’s sports teams do, which is a massive reason female athletes get paid less. Brook & Foster (2010) found that there was a significant difference in pay between men and women coaches. However, they ran a second test to see if it was because of gender discrimination or different labor markets. They concluded that the difference was due to different labor markets.
Knoppers et. al., (1989) ran a study to test the gender wage gap in NCAA coaches. They had a sample of 881 coaches, 577 being male and 285 being female, from 1,026 teams. These teams consisted of men’s and women’s volleyball, tennis, track and field, swimming, golf, baseball/softball, and basketball. The coaches were to fill out a questionnaire that was related to pay, education level, and experience level. There was no significant difference between the years of higher education and win/loss record, however there was a significant difference between the years of job experience between genders. On average, women basketball coaches made $5,000-$10,000 less than the male basketball coaches. In contrast, non-basketball women coaches made only $3,000-$4,000 less than the non-basketball male coaches. This shows that the discrimination isn’t completely because of domination and objectification of women by men, but the labor markets. Comment by kristin terry: This paragraph maybe should go first because the dates.

Acosta & Carpenter (2014) performed a longitudinal study and found that even though there is a deficiency of female coaches and a discrepancy in wages, the numbers are on the rise. In 2014, there were 11,657 females employed either as head coaches or assistant coaches in intercollegiate athletics. This was 659 more than 2012. They also found in their study that there are 1,142 female assistant coaches (that was not included in the previous number) that are unpaid. Though it seems there are more women becoming coaches, it is because there have been hundreds of new women’s sports teams added to schools. With that said in 2014, only 4 out of 10 coaches for women’s teams were female. This had declined from 1972 when 9 out of 10 coaches for women’s teams were female (Acosta & Carpenter, 2014). This is most likely due to job dissatisfaction. Pastore (1993) found that present pay, opportunities for promotion, and supervisors were the three leading factors to dissatisfaction. These factors can be easily linked with discrimination. If a woman felt she was being discriminated, there’s no question why she would be dissatisfied with her job.

Wage Differences Between Men and Women Athletes

Garris &Wilke (2017) brought to light more of the sad truth of the wage gap in professional soccer. Both the women’s and men’s team are both employed under The US Soccer Foundation, they are the ones who determine what players get paid. When a complaint about inequality is brought to their attention, they fight back saying, females need to be performing the same as the men. Looking back between 2012-2016, the Women’s National Team played more games and won twice as many games as the Men’s National Team. With those results, according to The US Soccer Foundation, they should be getting the same pay as the men. So, is it fair that they are putting in double the work for much less than half the pay? The US Soccer Foundation and FIFA are the ones in charge of how much to pay the Women’s National Team. They have yet to show their respect for the women and the work they have done on the field. Shane Ferro from Business Insider (2015) goes on to say that the reason for this wage gap is because women’s soccer is just not as popular. They do not bring nearly as much revenue as the men’s teams. My question is, how do you expect the women’s team to bring as much revenue when they get 3.2% of the sponsors that the men’s team gets? $17 million in sponsors vs $529 million (Ferro, 2015). That just goes to show you that people are not as interested in women’s soccer.

For the 2015-2016 season, the NBA had a minimum, maximum, and average salary of $525,000, $31 million, and $6.2 million, respectively. Whereas the WNBA had a minimum, maximum, and average salary of $38,000, $109,000, and $72,000, respectively (Rowan, 2018; Badenhausen, 2017). In addition, Major League Soccer had an average salary of $309,000 with the highest being $7.2 million. Whereas the National Women’s Soccer League had an average salary of $30,000 with the highest being $450,000 (Racine, 2018). Furthermore, prize money differences between the 2014 Professional Golf Association and Ladies’ Professional Golf Association tournaments were $340 million and $61.6 million, correspondingly (Rowan, 2018).

As stated before, men have always dominated sports. This is because sports have been considered by society to involve masculinity and toughness. These traits were never associated with women, even when they started to play sports. When women show these traits, it goes against gender norms. People do not want to see women being aggressive, tough, or masculine, therefore there is less media coverage on women’s sports, few people are interested.

Over the last few decades, the mass media has become one of the most influential forces for shaping modern culture. Mass media can be categorized by print or electronic, including; internet, television, radio, movies, video games, magazines, books, and newspaper (Coakley 2014). TV stations and commercials have a huge impact on society. For all the TV networks that are available, only 3.2% of their time was dedicated to women’s sports in 2014, with Sports Center only giving 2% coverage to women. In comparison, men’s basketball alone had 35.5% coverage (Bianco, 2015). With only giving women limited air time, it is enforcing stereotypical gender roles, gender ideology, and it is negatively affecting women (Fink, 2013). Rowan 2018 said, “The amount of media coverage is not the only problem—there is also the issue of how the media portrays women in sports.” She is correct, when women’s sports are covered, the announcers seem to focus more on the appearances of the women rather than their athletic ability. They will discuss their hair, makeup, body, outfit, etc.

The labor markets in sport have those basic foundations of supply and demand (Rosen & Sanderson, 2000). The sport industry is a huge business, whereas to keep the business thriving, you must give the customers what they want. The customers want to watch the most masculine, tough, and aggressive men play physical sports. That is why professional football, baseball, and basketball are the top 3 most followed sports in America (Acedera, 2018). Customers will also pay more money of higher quality athletes and athletic competitions. As you can see, there was no talk about women’s sport and their supply and demand. This brings us back to gender discrimination and people not wanting to watch women be masculine.


There is still an enormous amount of work to be done to get women on equal territory as men. That including, wage compensation, media coverage, respect, (add more). The research question I proposed, is the gender wage gap due to gender discrimination or having two different labor markets, was answered to an extent. There are two different labor markets for male and female sports. Since men’s sports have been around a lot longer than women’s sports, they have a larger fan base. Especially because sport is to contain toughness, aggression, intimidation, masculinity, etc., and all these characteristics are associated with men. When society sees women playing sports and trying to be masculine it turns them away. Even though it is 2019 and everyone is becoming more inclusive, it is still going to take a decent amount of time before women are fully thought of as respected athletes. Instead of announcers focusing on the woman’s personality, hair, shoes, physical features, personal background, etc. they should focus on what kind of athlete she is, her strengths and weaknesses, etc., (Kian et al., 2006). Also, if media covered women sports more often and equally, they would most likely run out of things to talk about her physically and would have to talk about her athletic ability.


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