Society has come a long way in terms of decreasing the gap among genders, whether it be in the community or in the workplace. However, the jump in inequality within the world of athletics is still a pretty sizeable one. According to a study conducted by Athlete Assessments, 40% of people involved in professional sports are women. However, their sporting events only make up around six to eight percent of televised and media coverage. Not only does this deplorable number lend itself to the still-resonant issue of the discrimination in athletics, but it impacts many outside variables including female athletes’ exposure in society.
The real gender bias, however, comes from how society perceives what is masculine, what is feminine and what is not. “Gender bias,” also known as gender typing, dates back thousands of years and has only become a major point of interest within the past few decades. Gender bias then lends itself to the gender socialization many of us are unaware of. Gender socialization, whether subtle or not, consists of assigning certain qualities and teaching how certain genders are supposed to act socially. In more basic terms, society has been telling females to act more feminine (whatever that may encompass depends on specific communities) and socially, being feminine does not mean rough sports and action; society categorizes that as masculine. This is usually in agreement with the dominant culture in athletics, which falls just short from complete male supremacy.
Although the public might argue that “women’s sports are boring,” we could rewind back to 2015’s Women’s World Cup, where statistics show that this sporting event was the most watched soccer match ever (both men’s and women’s) in United State’s history with over 25.4 million viewers. The whole championship brought FIFA a little over $73 million in revenue which includes $17 million in advertisements. This number has comparatively increased since past Women’s World Cups but does not nearly amount to the earnings of the Men’s World Cup. In 2018, FIFA raked in well over $6 billion for Russia’s World Cup. This caused the female soccer players to declare a wage discrimination complaint and demand a raise from the federation itself. In 2017 they received an “undisclosed” raise. However, before then, professional women soccer players earned “a maximum of $4,950 per ‘friendly,’ or non-tournament, game that they won, while men’s national-team players earned an average of $13,166 for the same thing,” according to The Atlantic.
According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, male athletes receive $179 million more in athletic scholarships than women athletes do. Not only does this emphasize the equal pay gap among athletes themselves, but it also leads to the next question in equality: what about their coaches? In the 1970’s Title IX was passed, prohibiting gender discrimination in education (which included athletics). During this time, over 90% of women’s sporting teams were being coached by females. However, according to a study done in 2007, only 42% of women’s sports were being coached by women. A little over ten years later, this number has remained the same.
This causes young female athletes all over the country to reconsider their choices when thinking about pursuing a career in professional sports. “Becoming a pro athlete would sound amazing …. if I were a guy,” senior and Duke softball commit Kelly Torres said. “People will always say girls aren’t athletic and their sports are a joke. It’s not worth going through all the trouble and hard work to get paid little to nothing.” She has played softball for her entire high school career and has shown her love for the sport by competing both in and out of school. However, when asked if she wanted to pursue softball as a career, Torres said “I love playing and I wish I would be able to, but a pro softball salary isn’t close at all to what a pro baseball salary is.” To put her words into perspective, the highest paid professional softball contract, Monica Abbott’s, is $1 million while the highest paid professional baseball contract (the equivalent sport for males), Stephen Strasburg’s, is just over $38 million.
Torres is one of the many athletes on campus who expresses this concern with the sex segregation in the industry. Senior and varsity soccer player Gabrielle Scarlett is also very aware of the inequality. “As a female athlete, there are a plethora of obstacles one must endure to be successful,” Scarlett said. “I would like to make a career out of soccer since I have been playing [it] my entire life, but If I can’t support myself financially, then it is likely I will not play.”
The solution lies among us, the society. There should not be this gap and imbalance between men and women, whether it is in the workplace or in sports. And while having the separation between women’s and men’s sports is not encompassed in this argument, their pay is. “Focus, determination, pain, disappointment, excitement, suspense, anger, relief: it’s all a part of the game whether you are a man or a woman,” Annie Spewak, former lacrosse player and junior at Robert Morris University, said.