Attempting to even out the playing field

Graphic by Katie Nishida.

Graphic by Katie Nishida.

As a female athlete on the track and field team at Chapman, Hannah Pickerill has witnessed firsthand that women can be treated differently than men when it comes to sports.

“When I am at a meet you can see that people pay attention more to boys’ events than girls’,” the freshman psychology major said. “Women’s sports in general are not watched as much as men’s, so I think it is not surprising that women do not get paid as much. It is obviously a societal problem.”

Today, inequality between men and women exists in the wage gap, the percent difference between the median wages of each gender. The average woman makes 78 cents for every dollar a man makes according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

On March 31, five members of the U.S. women’s national soccer team, filed a wage-discrimination action to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the U.S. Soccer Federation, according to ESPN’s website.

Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn and Hope Solo said they earned as little as 40 percent of what the players on the U.S. men’s national team earned, despite having won three FIFA Women’s World Cup titles. The women’s soccer team earned $2 million for winning the World Cup, whereas the men’s team, which finished in 11th place during the 2014 World Cup, earned $9 million.

Chapman economics professor Kaycea Campbell said that from an economist prospective, the gender pay gap between athletes is dependent on how the audience values the athlete, team and sport.

“In these types of industry-like sports and entertainment, we have what is called winner takes all,” Campbell said. “The winner (valued athlete) is chosen by the audience.”

Campbell said that society needs to think about why it values female sports less.

“You see in society male athletes in the NBA and in soccer are valued much more than females, even if the female athletes are better and much more productive in the sport, for example the U.S. women’s (soccer) team,” Campbell said.

Justin Le, a computational and data sciences graduate student, agrees with Campbell.

“It is unfortunate because women work just as hard as the men do, but I think it’s a lot more complicated because the audience is not as big and there is not much promotion for women’s sports as men,” Le said.

Tennis is one of the few sports where on average women make more than men, partly due to Wimbledon announcing in 2007 that it would provide an equal prize to both male and female athletes, according to tennis.com.

“In tennis, the gap is much smaller because there is much more value on the tennis female athletes like Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova,” Campbell said. “If you ask people about WNBA players, people might not be able to give an answer.”

Pickerill said that she thinks it is good that the U.S. women’s soccer team brought this problem to light.

“While I am not sure that they will win, it is good that they are standing up for themselves and bringing it (the wage gap) to people’s attention,” Pickerill said.

Allie Kawata, a senior health sciences major, said that the gender pay gap is outdated.

“If someone is equally as qualified, then they should get paid the same amount,” Kawata said.

Kawata also said that media contributes to the gender wage gap in athletes.

“When you turn on ESPN, you mostly see men. If there was equal amount of marketing, maybe there would be more wage equality.”

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