Analyzing the unfair pay gap in women’s sport


While we usually talk about the pay gap in terms of the office workplace, the last place you might expect to hear about such a topic is in a sports column like this. Think again: the pay gap between women and men in professional sport is bigger than you might think.

How big is the gap?

Let’s look at the reality of basketball, which has long been a men’s sport. The disparity is shocking when we look at NBA salaries versus their female counterpart, the WNBA. If you do the math and check the New York Knicks salary cap last year, their franchise budget was just over $ 109 million. In comparison, looking at the same New York metro area counterpart, New York Liberty, their entire team got a budget of just over $ 1.3 million. To put that in context, the entire New York Liberty is paid barely above the NBA league minimum of $ 925,000.

Reversing the Trend in Women’s Sports Fan Base and Media Coverage

There is a huge demand and fan base for women’s sport, with around 72 million fans for women’s basketball alone.

Is media and exposure starting to turn the tide when it comes to women’s sports? There are some signs of hope. Between 2013 and 2017, annual sponsorship deals for women’s sport increased by 37%, with the average dollar size of the deals increasing by 49%.

If we take a look at the most prominent athletes in all sports, very few women are presented. Consider this: Last year, while women made up 40% of athletes, only 4% received sports media coverage. In case that wasn’t enough for you, a measly 0.4% of sponsorship dollars goes to women’s sports.

Lately, there have been a few positives that seem to be going against the trend:

* WNBA star Candace Parker was the first woman to appear on the cover of the popular NBA2K video game.
* Tennis had a time recently when Naomi Osaka, the highest paid female athlete and the only highest paid athlete in Forbes 50 who was female (arriving at No.29).

Put it all together

If you’re a fan of women’s sports, you can make a difference by voting with what matters most to many sports franchises: voting with your wallet. Hopefully more fans attending the games will increase the media coverage.

Maybe it’s a bit of a catch-22 where lack of media coverage means less brand sponsorships.

Right now, brands also have an unprecedented opportunity to step up their game in women’s sports, as one in five people are more influenced by sponsorships from women’s sports than from men’s sports. Learn more about the distribution of female sport business – with a few steps on what can be done to close the gap – in the deep visual dive below:

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