One of the most controversial topics that sports face is gender inequality. There is not just inequality in participation and opportunity, but also with pay. That comes mainly in professional sports, wherein in almost all cases, men make more money than women.
Male athletes in basketball, golf, soccer, baseball and tennis make anywhere from 15% to 100% more than female athletes. There are many reasons why that is. A popular argument is that women’s sports do not nearly bring in the revenue that men’s sports do. Using that logic, the question of, “So why should they get paid the same?” is often asked. The fact is that many arguments go beyond that one point that would suggest that sports are naturally unfair to women and that they are not granted the same opportunities that men are to even be able to earn the amount of money that men do.
In catching up with professional boxer Sarah Thomas, she was able to grasp and explain some of the concepts that may lead to the unfair pay gap in sports, specifically combat sports.
Sarah was asked to describe her opinion on the gender pay gap in sports.
She replied, “One of the bigger arguments I have heard regarding women in sports making less money than their male counterparts, is that fewer people watch women’s sports, so the women are paid proportionately based on demand. Simply put, more people watch men’s sports. This results in higher revenue. Therefore, there is more available money to give to male athletes. I do agree that this logic is fair. Sports are a business just like any other business. The companies pay salaries that are typically reflective of how much money the companies are bringing in. However, I think there should be a shift in focus. Female athletes should be marketed better. Successful marketing could lead to more revenue and higher-paying salaries.”
This is an interesting point. Women’s sports are not nearly as marketed as men’s sports are. Sports Illustrated did a study on media coverage in sports. Women’s sports account for 5.7% of media coverage by ESPN. As well as 80% of sports news programs and highlights that this study analyzed covered zero stories on women’s sports. So perhaps if fans were more exposed to women’s sports, that would draw a lot more interest thus significantly increasing revenue.
Sarah was also asked about where in sports has she seen progress and if that is a direction that the sport of boxing should go in as well.
She replied, “Mixed martial arts is a combat sport that has successfully closed the pay gap. I believe boxing organizations should take notes from the UFC. The UFC has successfully marketed its female athletes. Many main events are female fighters and some of the sport's biggest stars are women.”
That is very true. Stars like Amanda Nunes and Ronda Rousey were some of the highest-paid athletes in the world, despite their gender. That could be something boxing could take as well. Using women in their main events more, or switching up marketing tactics to gain more exposure. It should not just be up to the media to expose these hard-working athletes, but there is so much that the sports itself can do to further expose their athletes.
The issue of gender inequality in sports is not going away anytime soon. However, there are very clear ways in how the gap can become smaller. Marketing is probably the best answer because it directly contradicts any argument of how men bring in more revenue so they should be paid more.