The Gender Pay Gap in Sport

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The gender pay gap, within the United States, is an issue across all places of work and negatively impacts the lives of all women, but the question comes into play in the sports industry. A place where women are encouraged to participate in the same activity as the male competition yet prevented from excelling due to the overbearing male presence. This multi-billion dollar industry is giving the majority of its money to the male athletes and has been since the late 1800s, creating and continuing a sexist and unstoppable path.

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The question then comes into play of: What are the main gaps in sports with regards to gender equality and when do and did those come into play? The first question that comes into play is when did women begin participating in sports and when did women begin getting compensated for their participation. The first account of women participating in sports is Annie Oakley. She participated in sharpshooting. Beginning at age eight, then continuing for years, Annie earned enough to pay her family’s house mortgage and provide food for her family. Making more than $200.

When Annie was then fifteen, she was able to outshoot a professional named Frank who she married later. They traveled together but the world assumed Frank was a butler, not a professional sharpshooter. This shows how even in the 1800s, the world was sexist and unable to handle a woman being better at a sport than her counterpart. Annie was an advocate for equal pay for men and women throughout her life and fought for women to participate in the military in order to fight this blatant sexism. Annie was one of the first in the sports world, along with Lizzie Arlington. Lizzie Arlington made a big change in society’s views when she was the first woman to sign a contract in the baseball minor leagues in the year 1876. She was paid $100 a week to play as the starting pitcher for the professional teams. She did not make money for the team but was signed onto the Atlantic League on July 5, 1898. She pitched and gave no runs, the crowds were cheering for the “attractive face and rosy cheeks” pitcher. This discrimination between men and women grows larger in the 1960s when roller derby becomes popular. Joan Weston, a roller derby star, was on the San Francisco Bay Bombers. Weston was incredible, she was so good she was the highest paid female athlete in the 1960s.

She did not gain these skills or this pay overnight, she skated full time for over 250 games. Her stardom was well deserved, but the sexism in sports made it so that even her title of being the highest paid female athlete, led to her being paid less than her male rollers by about $20,000. In the previously complete patriarchal society, women were not allowed to participate in any sports or attend games. The first Olympics, 776 b.c., is known to have a “no girls allowed” rule, but the games of Hera were invented. This Hera competition would occur every four years, where the games were created especially for women to compete and the prizes consisted of pomegranates, symbols of fertility, olive wreaths and slices of a sacrificial cow. Eventually, in 1900, women competed in the Paris Olympics in the events golf, tennis and croquet. Big changes were made in 1917 when an even larger gap was created between the genders within the sports world. This is because the American Physical Educators Association “formed a committee on women’s athletics to draft separate standardized rules for women’s collegiate swimming, track and field, field hockey and soccer.” This is known throughout as the first big divide in starting the inequality aspect of sports that will be carried through to today according to Steve Derderian (Faculty, Ithica FIX CITATION)

Sports wouldn’t be sports without the broadcasters to help those at home follow along with the game. As the research above showed how sexist the sports world started out, the following research will show how sexist the reporting, or broadcasting started out. According to Lou Schwartz, the American Sportscasters Association President: Mrs. Harry Johnson is said to be one of the first sports broadcasters from the late 30s or early 40s located in Omaha Nebraska. She was known for making small commentary during her husband’s broadcasts which is an “outdated idea” according to Carlie Minichino and their research at Colby College. Minichino blames society and the homes people grow up in for culture and language(CITE). This theory explains the second woman broadcaster: Jane Chastain is thought to be one of the first female sportscasters known to have done a play-by-play on CBS in the late 60s, yet she struggled to make it in the field with so many strong male counterparts who did not to work with a female. As the sexism continues, the pay gap increases. Jeannie Morris- first woman sports broadcaster to make it big (because of her husband) and broadcasted the Minnesota Vikings vs. Chicago Bears game in the early 70s. She stayed in the field, previous work in journalism and writing, but still was not getting the same rewards as the men she worked with.

Emily Dane Staples’ research explains how “trait-matching in employment” would essentially “set up” a certain society leading to an unavoidable pay gap and only men in some jobs due to their traits being deemed fit for that job- Jeannie’s husband as the broadcaster and others not fit- Jeannie as the broadcaster (The Sports Journal). Staples’ research holds up as the next female broadcaster to break ground was the winner of Miss America. Phyllis George who started working on the CBS pregame show around the mid-70s. She was previously known as Miss America with no journalism or writing background, she was good on the air but had to have a counterpart write what she would say before the events. This idea that the woman needs the man to create the content for her to beautifully present is exactly what Staples was explaining in her research. Research also shows the sexist ways of sports in regards to the simple rules as well as inclusion and how they differ between men and women. Defined by David Rowe, an Emeritus Professor of Cultural Research, Institute for Cultural and Society as well as many other degrees to produce this sport aficionado; Title Nine was passed in 1972, and stated: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” In Australia, there were laws being passed in 2016 to provide gender-neutral travel policies for major championships. In Australia, they are making much larger strides towards equality than the United States.

However, Rowe explains how the law, although important, will not stop the sports “deeply entrenched institutional values and practices that tend to reproduce sexual inequality as natural and normal” which will ultimately lead to the continued pay gap which is still around three years later. Rowe was focused on the historical differences between men and women in sports and how that led to the inevitable inequality. As evident as that is, another key component is the different set of rules within the sports based on gender. Steve Derderian studied the outdated rules and how these rules lead to a sexist society and a large pay gap. Derderian looks into the same sport for males and females and notes the changes in rules, then acknowledges how these changes are sexist and outrages. For example, Derderian uses Cross country where women run 4-6 km while men run 8-10 km for division one and division two teams even though they are capable of running the same distance and did so a year prior to being in the division one team. He also uses Basketball as an example because women have a closer 3 point line and a smaller ball even though they have the same athletic abilities and the women used the same court in their previous basketball careers. For the sport Lacrosse, Derderian explains how for women, it is a no-contact sport even though men play it as a full-contact sport, women are wearing skirts while men are wearing full body protection pads, and women don’t get helmets even tho sticks and balls flying at their head while men do. The pay gap is not hidden.

Although the athletes get paid quite a bit for actually playing the game, they get millions of dollars simply for endorsements and advertisements. Much of the money in the sports world is through media and in the media is all advertisements. One of the biggest athletic brands is Nike. Known for endorsing two major athletes: Michael Jordan and Serena Williams. Forbes Magazine, an American magazine focussed on finance, investing, marketing and much more, researched Serena Williams. This research was done by Daniel Kleinman who estimates Williams earns roughly $18.1million in endorsements from Nike alone. Kurt Badenhausen, another editor of Forbes researched Michael Jordan. Another athlete endorsed by Nike. After research, Forbes estimates that Jordan earns roughly $1.65 billion in 2018 but every year before that earned $3.1 billion. These two athletes, both endorsed by the same company have such a distinct gap between their pay, and Michael Jordan is retired and still earning billions more than Williams. In a similar situation, Kevin Na, Kevin Na- Ranked 60 best golfer in the world, from the United States, Las Vegas, made $6.7 Million from golfing in 2018. While Mo Martin Ranked 60 best golfer in the world, from United States, Pasadena California, made $1.8 million in 2018.

Kevin, being a male in the sport made millions more than Mo, simply because she is female. The research that was done by Adelphi University says “on average, female golfers earn “811,000 less of what the men earn” but when it is taken to a global standpoint and the male and female have the same exact statistics, Adelphi states that the change can only happen with a “fundamental knowledge and understanding.”(Adelphi 2019) Research shows the start of inequality with regards to participation and pay, but Minichino explores how and why the lack of respect continues as well as the hidden obstacles. Minichino begins with the idea of “athletes vs female athletes”. This refers to the fact that society views men as athletes and just players in the game, but for females who are athletes, they are female athletes.

Their gender is first, and then their job which creates a limitation as to how much success a female can reach in the sports world. Minichino then talks about how “a sport is presumed for men unless a female version is created.” For example, lacrosse, until a non-contact female version was created: there was men’s lacrosse. But now, there is lacrosse and there is women’s lacrosse. This now brings up a new point for Minichino: the rules for the newly created “women’s version” would all be based on the woman aspect, not an athlete because the word woman comes first.

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The Gender Pay Gap in Sport. (2019, Sep 29). Retrieved from