Analyzing the Unfair Pay Gap in Women’s Sports

While we usually speak about the pay gap in terms of the office workplace, the last place that you might expect to hear about such a subject is in a sports column like this. Think again — the pay inequality between women and men in professional sports is larger than you might expect.

Just How Big is the Gap?

Let's look at the reality of basketball, which has been a men's game for a long time. The disparity is shocking when we take a look at salaries in the NBA vs the female counterpart, the WNBA. If you do the math and check out the salary cap for the New York Knicks last year, their franchise budget was just over $109 million. By comparison, looking at the same NY metro area counterpart New York Liberty — their entire team came in at just over a $1.3 million budget. Putting this into context, the entire New York Liberty are getting paid barely over the NBA's league minimum of $925,000.

Turning the Tide in Women's Sports Fan Base and Media Coverage

There is a huge demand and fanbase for women's sports, with an estimated 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 2013-2017, the annual sponsorship deals for women's sports increased 37% ,with an average monetary size of deals increasing by 49%.

If we take a look at the highest profile athletes across all sports, very few women are featured. Consider this: last year, while women made up 40% of sportspeople, only 4% received any sports media coverage. In case that wasn't enough of a disparity for you, a meager 0.4% of sponsorship dollars go to women's sports.

There have been a few bright spots lately that seem to be bucking the trend:

* WNBA star Candace Parker was the first woman to ever be featured on the cover of the popular NBA2K video game.
* Tennis had a moment recently where Naomi Osaka, the highest-paid female athlete and the only Forbes 50 highest-paid athlete that was female (coming in at #29).

Bringing 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 games will increase media coverage.

Perhaps it's a bit of a catch-22 where the lack of media coverage means fewer brand sponsorships.

Right now, brands also have an unprecedented opportunity to step up their game in women's sports as a full one in five people are more influenced by sponsorships of women's sports than of men's sports. Learn more about the breakdown of the business of women's sports — along with some steps on what can be done to close the gap — in the visual deep dive below:

The Business of Women

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