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Gender inequality and its effect on the financial independence of female athletes

By Marianna Kazazi, The Sports Financial Literacy Academy, Nicosia, Cyprus

Even though steps have been made in the right direction, gender inequality is still prevalent and poses a great issue, especially in the world of sports.

Despite the progress made over the years, income inequality and the gender pay gap between female and male athletes remains a cause for concern, affecting the level of financial independence of female athletes, as well as their ability to live a financially sustainable life.

The perception that the world of sports is a male-dominated industry has led to female athletes being undervalued and under-represented, compared to male athletes in the same sports. Specifically, women, historically, have received less media coverage compared to men and this continues today, despite the efforts of female athletes for greater visibility and recognition.

This undoubtedly impacts their competence and ability to attract high value sponsorship and endorsement contracts, compared with male athletes. A great example of this can be seen in the tennis industry. According to Forbes’ list of the world's top 100 highest-paid athletes for 2020, only two women were included, namely, tennis champions, Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka. Their combined earnings, Serena’s US$37.4 and Naomi’s US$36 million in 2020, were not even close to the US$106.3 million Roger Federer made the same year.

Moreover, another example highlighting the gender pay gap between male and female athletes, regardless of their on-field performances or sport, is that of the women’s tennis prizes for tournaments being significantly lower compared with those in men’s tennis tournaments. Venus Williams, the sister of the great Serena, acted as a vocal supporter for equivalent pay in tennis. Her endeavors proved to be successful, as, two years later, Wimbledon, the most famous tennis tournament around the globe, was one of the few competitions to introduce equal pay between the two genders.

The impact gender inequality has on sportswomen is significant, as it affects female athletes throughout their entire lives, even during their retirement years.

Women are usually forced to rely on additional sources of income to maintain a good life standard, as many of them have to work part-time jobs whilst pursuing their athletic careers. As a result of lower lifetime earnings, women earn less in social security and pensions, having approximately 70% of what men have in their overall retirement.

The discrimination against women in sports has extensive implications as it enhances stereotypes concerning gender and it supports the belief that women are not as talented or worthy as men. This certainly has a negative effect on the financial independence of female athletes by not only restricting their economic empowerment, but their career development opportunities as well.

To reduce and eventually eliminate gender inequality in sports, as well as provide female athletes with the means to become financially independent, a united effort must be made to invest in female sports. 

We need to have those difficult and open conversations about gender equality and gender-based discrimination, by establishing and revisiting relevant sports industry measures and regulations. Changes need to be made from within the sports industry for the world to follow in making female athletes equal earners with their male counterparts.

A noble aim indeed!

For further information and advice on gender financial issues in sport, log onto: ‘www.moneysmartathlete.com’



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