There’s an on-going call for sports to address the gender pay gap in sports. Female athletes earn significantly less than men. The women’s US national soccer team that handily won the women’s World Cups in 2014 and 2018 have gained global attention in their public fight for equality. Many other sports, including professional basketball, also have strikingly similar pay disparities. However, tennis’s biggest events are high profile examples of doing the right thing.
The Major (aka Grand Slam) events, which include the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open give equal prize money to both male and female athletes but there is still a disparity. Other tennis championships outside of the Grand Slam events have yet to follow suit. Women earn about 80 cents to every dollar that men make. Nonetheless, this is a step in the right direction for women.
Tennis icon and founder of the Women’s Tennis Association, Billie Jean King, kick-started this movement in the 1970s. In 1973, the strong-willed and talented King threatened to boycott the U.S. Open if they wouldn’t reward equal prize money to the winners. She was successful, and that same year, the U.S Open instituted equal pay for both men and women. Billie Jean King once said,
“Everyone thinks women should be thrilled when we get crumbs, and I want women to have the cake, the icing and the cherry on top, too.”
The fight continued and other Majors eventually got in line. The Australian Open offered women equal prize money in the mid-80s and early 90s, according to Australian tennis records, but pay equality lapsed over several years. Finally, in 2001, the Australian Open became only the second tournament committed to awarding equal prize money. In 2006, the French Open also joined the movement to close the pay gap. Lastly, in 2007 the Wimbledon championships also made the change and began paying men and women equally. American tennis star, Venus Williams, played a key role in pushing for equal pay. Venus implored Grand Slam members to…
“Think about their daughters and their wives and sisters. How would they like them to be treated?”
Williams’ legendary sister, Serena, has also joined the fight. Serena has won the most Grand Slam titles in the Open Era and is actively pushing for equal pay across the board.
There is a long way to go to get to pay equity in sports but the Grand Slams in tennis are good examples to follow and a step in the right direction. The bottom line is that the women’s game is flourishing and one of the most important factors is the willingness of sponsors and corporations to realize the general appeal and positive receptivity of the media and fans for taking a stance for equality. Hopefully, more marketers will realize you can do great by doing good.
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