Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the UN under-secretary-general and executive director of UN Women, has pointed out one of the world’s worst gender pay gaps – in professional sport.
Following the success of the Women’s World Cup, the final of which between USA and Japan was the most-watched football (soccer) match in US history, she has pointed out a few facts about the pay gap between the men’s and the women’s game:
1) The total payout for the Women’s World Cup was $15 million, compared with $576 million for the last men’s World Cup — 40 times less.
2) The winning women’s team received $2 million in prize money, whereas the winning men’s team took away $35 million.
3) The losing US men’s team was still awarded $8 million — four times as much as the winning US women’s team.
Similar pay gaps occur across other professional sports – with the exception of tennis, which since 2007 has awarded equal prize money at all four Grand Slam tournaments.
That should be the model to which all other sports aspire.
All sports federations should close the gap and put women and men, in this and all other respects, on an equal playing field.
Deeply entrenched, discriminatory notions of women’s diminished status, whether the issue is a playing field or a paycheck, harm individual women and girls. They are denied their rights and blocked from achieving their full potential.
Such norms also undermine sport itself, tarnishing notions such as fair play and open competition.
It is time to overturn the barriers and stereotypes, because every step to do so is a step towards gender equality and women’s empowerment.
Many women athletes, especially in sports not traditionally considered “feminine”, lead the way, with grit and grace.
And, as a gentle reminder to those who say the women's game is less entertaining: