Equal premiums for men and women are gaining ground, but only under pressure
It is often only public pressure that leads to equal pay in sport. And that’s only at the top.
Many sports have taken a step towards equal pay between the sexes in recent years. Pressure from popular figureheads such as the US soccer team was usually necessary.
Tennis is considered a pioneer: the US Open introduced equal prize money for men and women as early as 1973. It took a lot of pressure from the then top player Venus Williams, until the last Grand Slam tournament followed with Wimbledon 2007. This year, the winner and female winner will each receive two million pounds. However, a different picture emerges in the tournaments below this prize money class: women’s tournaments there tend to have less prize money.
Anyone who wins a World Cup race usually collects CHF 45,000, regardless of whether they are a man or a woman. There is still 500 francs for 30th place. However, there are exceptions which mean that the pot is CHF 5.2 million for men and only around CHF 4.5 million for women. The winner of the men’s downhill in Kitzbühel, for example, receives CHF 110,000.
Last season, Marco Odermatt was the top earner with prize money of CHF 565,445. Two women followed in third and fourth place: Petra Vlhova (408,332 francs) and Mikaela Shiffrin (406,745 francs). Last year, Lara Gut-Behrami was the top earner with CHF 485,091, ahead of all men.
The US national soccer players around Megan Rapinoe, the most successful national team in women’s soccer, fought for the same wages as the men through a discrimination lawsuit. In addition, there was a settlement of 24 million dollars in compensation.
In the USA, the focus is not only on the footballers with their lawsuit. Direct comparisons are possible there because, in addition to the billionaire leagues in men’s baseball, basketball and ice hockey, there are also women’s counterparts. These do not come close to the men in terms of remuneration: basketball star Stephen Curry has a salary of over 45 million dollars. In the WNBA women’s league, the maximum wage is around $230,000.
Tour of Switzerland
At the Tour de Suisse cycle tour, which was held this year for the second time in a row as a men’s and women’s event, the difference in prize money is striking: the overall winner for men received 18,000 francs, for women 18,000 the winner 4500 francs, i.e. a quarter. The prize money for men totaled CHF 148,500 and for women CHF 33,490. It should be noted that the men’s tour had eight stages, the women’s four.
Another issue is the sponsorship amounts, which can far exceed the prize money. Forbes magazine income ranking shows that the sports world is far from equality. Only two of the top 50 earning athletes are women, namely tennis players Naomi Osaka (19th with $59.2 million in total earnings) and Serena Williams (35th with $45.3 million). Both earned only a fraction of their income from tennis in 2021.