Should women and men be paid the same in sport? We’ve turned a corner in the past few years; there’s more respect for women’s sport, and much more coverage. But there isn’t – yet – anything like the money available to men. Does simple fairness demand financial parity for sportswomen at the stratospheric levels of some men’s sports? Or, with all the complaints from fans about the way money has wrecked men’s sport, is the question more complicated? If the rewards for female sports go up, and for men’s sport go down, might we see a rebalancing in everyone’s interests?
Our special guests for this ThinkIn included:
Tallulah Lewis, Women in Racing Chair
Eddie Ramsden, Director at Lewes FC
Ian Ridley, sports journalist and author
We’ve turned a corner in the past few years; there’s more respect for women’s sport, and much more coverage. But for women, there is not anything like the money available to men.
Does simple fairness demand equality?
We came together to talk about the gender pay gap in professional sport, but left with a better understanding of why women’s sport is so undervalued.
The history. It’s worth thinking about the impact of the FA’s ban on women’s football (yes, really). In 1920, women’s football was more popular than men’s. Then the (all-male) FA, banned it. The lack of equality in pay, remarked one contributor, “is as a result of really low media coverage, driving really low interest and attendance, driving really low commercial interest.”
The decision makers. In the UK, nearly every major TV sports channel or Head of Sport position is held by a man. The exception is the BBC where Barbara Slater runs the show. This year, we’re being served a summer of women’s sport on the BBC. Not just the Football World Cup but the Netball World Cup, the Women’s cricket ashes and more. To create more exposure in the media, we should look at the people at the top who can spark change at the bottom.
The problems start young. We were lucky to have with us teenagers from an east London secondary school – they spoke eloquently about the disparities they noticed between genders in sport in their age groups. Schools need to place equal value on boys’ and girls’ sports. At a professional level, women’s sports need to be valued equally in prize money. Two years ago, the FA increased prize money for clubs in the FA cup. They doubled it for the men – but left it the same for women. At every level female sport is dealt a dud hand.
The interesting question is not whether women and men should be paid the same (“of course they should!”) but how do we get to a point where women and men are paid equally as quickly as possible?
The Lewes FC story – a (small) club where male and female players are paid equally is a fascinating story and worth returning to.