Why Are Pro Female Athletes Paid So Much Less Than Their Male Counterparts?
There are so many amazing things to celebrate about the U.S. Women’s National Team's huge win in the World Cup Final—Carli Lloyd’s heroic hat trick in the first 16 minutes, the 5-2 score, the fact that they finally beat Japan in the final after losing a heart-wrenching game to them in the final four years ago—but the news of their pitiful pay compared to their male counterparts is souring the thrilling victory.
The U.S. women’s team will get a $2 million bonus for winning the FIFA Women's World Cup. A lot of money to you and me, yes. But to put that in perspective, after Germany won the men’s tournament last year, they earned an extra $35 million. And the U.S. men—who not only lost, but lost in the first round—got a cool $8 mil.
And, if you can take it, here’s some more upsetting numbers for women’s soccer. The total payout for all 24 teams in the tournament is a paltry $15 million. For the 2014 men’s tournament? $576 million, which is almost 40 times as much as the women, Politico reported.
Sadly, soccer isn’t the only sport where women see a wage gap (along with all women in the U.S., we would be remiss not to point out). According to Politico, the minimum salary in the WNBA was $37,950 in 2013, with a team salary cap (i.e. the total team salary limit) of $913,000. Meanwhile, the lowest salary in the NBA for the same year was $490,180, and the team salary cap was $58.7 million. Kobe Bryant alone will rake in $25 million next season.
Women playing in the LPGA tour see a similar gap, with a total prize package of $50 million, a fraction of the PGA’s $250 million, according to the Women's Sports Foundation.
One of the few major sports without major pay inequality is tennis, but even that was a recent change. In 2007 Wimbledon announced that they would finally award an equal prize package to men and women (£1.88 million each in 2015, or $2.8 million), and the other Grand Slam tournaments quickly followed the trend.
So why is soccer, and most other sports, still stuck in the past? Most argue that it’s because women’s sports just don’t draw the same amount of viewers (and therefore marketing dollars) as the men. And for the most part, that’s sadly true. The 2015 NBA finals had an average audience of 13.9 million to the WNBA’s 828,000 for the 2014 final game (Encouragingly, that number is growing, and 2014’s final marked a 150% increase over the year before).
But that argument just does not work anymore for women’s soccer. Sunday’s game had a whopping 25.4 million viewers, making it the most watched soccer event in U.S. history. It beat out the U.S.-Portugal 2014 men’s World Cup match (18.2 million, the previous record-holder) and men’s World Cup final from last year, between Germany and Argentina (~17.3 million). It even took down the more popular U.S. pro sports finals, like the aforementioned NBA finals and the Stanley Cup finals (7.6 million).
So it’s high time for FIFA to wise up and give the women an equal wage. And hopefully, if or when they do, other sports will follow suit. Because male or female, reaching the pinnacle of your sport like Carli Lloyd and the rest of the U.S. women’s team deserves to be rewarded.