Women have faced inequality for as long as we have had written history – especially when it comes to female athletes. Today, players on the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team – the No. 1 women’s soccer team in the world – get paid “as little as 40%” of those on the U.S. Men’s Soccer Team. The pay gap between male and female athletes is glaringly obvious and largely unjustified. In fact, it is often overwhelming: “The men’s team would get more money for losing all 20 of the friendlies they play each year than the women would for winning all of theirs.” This is outright ridiculous. This blatant example of pay inequality is a perfect representation of the kind of discrimination female athletes constantly have to battle.
Furthermore, there is little to no representation of women on the governing bodies of sports organizations and previous attempts to achieve this representation have failed. In fact, only 18 percent of board members were women across the 28 international sports federations, and this percentage has been static from 2014 to 2016. If women can’t even get onto the boards of these organizations, how can we expect any change?
Again, men dominate the female sports world. Try as they might, men cannot possibly understand the inequality female athletes face, and these inequalities will continue if women are unable to hold positions of power. Even the executives at FIFA admit we shouldn’t be holding our breath for equality; a former FIFA secretary general for the organization stated it might be “another 23 World Cups before potentially women should receive the same amount (of prize money) as men.” This pay gap will not close, and if it does, it will do so very slowly. This means another 100 years until female athletes can expect to be treated as equals to their male counterparts. It asks women to wait 100 more years to receive equal compensation when they often have to outperform men by a huge margin just to gain any kind of respect. If these organizations continue to remain ignorant of this pressing issue and fail to address it, female athletes will never be able to close the pay gap. Action needs to begin at the top, and that means acknowledging the issue, allowing women to speak about it and implementing real policy change.
At all levels of sport, male athletes are held in a higher regard than female athletes. Because of this, it becomes much more difficult to achieve equality. Speaking from personal experience, I can say the men’s teams always get priority. In high school, they got the most qualified coaches, the earlier practice time and more money to pay for gear. The athletic director of the school advertised men’s games and not women’s games. Our administrators and teachers showed up to the men’s games and not the women’s games. As a result, students followed suit.
In collegiate athletics, this systematic inequity is most easily seen in ticket prices. This study shows men’s teams are thought to be better simply because tickets to their games cost more due to the assumption that the price of a product reflects its value. This issue can be costly in terms of public perception of women’s sports. The public needs to understand female athletes are just as valuable as male athletes, but different ticket pricing perpetuates the public’s perception that men’s sports are more valuable. At the University of Michigan, season tickets for men’s basketball cost $175; season tickets for women’s basketball cost $45. Both teams were ranked in the top 25 throughout the season, both teams made the NCAA tournament, both teams play in the Big Ten and both teams play at Crisler Center. Despite the similarities in merit, location and schedule, the women’s team had an average attendance of 2,672 people per game while the men’s team had an average attendance of 11,121 people per game. The public, a.k.a. the consumers, need to know female athletics are just as important as male athletics. Without this understanding, the sports world will continue to justify the pay gap and other inequalities.
College athletes, both male and female, put in a lot of time playing their sport. It is disappointing to know despite equal amounts of hours of work, one team is valued more by the University and therefore its students. It is important that inequality is stopped in its early stages, and perhaps the University can set an example for other colleges and universities around the nation by starting to level the playing field for our young female athletes. They work just as hard and are just as talented; in fact, Katelynn Flaherty became the all-time leading scorer for Michigan basketball – male or female – this year. With that kind of talent should come equal respect, and that can be reflected in ticket prices, advertising and support from the University as a whole.