If you visit YWCA Greater Cleveland today, you won’t find a gym or swimming pool. However, providing women access to sports and physical fitness programming was a focus of YWCA for decades and remains dear to our hearts.
Although there are many more opportunities for women in sports and fitness today, partially due to the work done by past YWCA leaders, there are still large disparities between the ways male and female athletes are treated at every level.
The minimum salary for WNBA players was $38,000 in 2016, compared to $525,000 in the NBA. In golf, the women’s US Open winner earns about 45% of the prize money earned by the men’s US Open champion.
In 2016, US men’s soccer players earned $263,320 plus bonuses if they won at least 20 exhibition matches in a season, according to a Newsweek calculation. The women received a maximum of $99,000 for doing the exact same thing.
Even sports icons like Serena Williams and Abby Wambach can’t crack Forbes top 100 highest paid athletes list, in fact, there are currently NO women on that list.
In Wambach’s powerful graduation speech to the students of Barnard College she emphasized the importance of advocating for yourself, even when it’s uncomfortable, stating that “Women have learned that we can be grateful for what we have while also demanding what we deserve.”
Tennis players are more equitably compensated than any other major sport but women still only make 80 cents compared to each dollar made by their male counterparts. In 2016, Roger Federer won $731,000 for defending his title at The Western & Southern Open in Mason, Ohio, while Serena Williams received $495,000 for defending hers hours later. Williams also faced pregnancy bias when, after the birth of her daughter, she saw her world ranking drop from number 1 down to 183.
However, this isn’t just a protest to put more money in Serena Williams’ bank account. The way our female superstar athletes are treated sets the tone for treatment of women athletes in general.
The perception that women are not interested in sports or that women and girls are not as capable or captivating on the field allows high schools and colleges to justify discrepancies in investment between men’s and women’s sports and physical education programs. The lack of funding for women’s sports in schools limits what female athletes can achieve and in some cases even limits the kind of sports in which they can participate.
YWCA Greater Cleveland wants to help raise the profile of women athletes in our community. That is why we are proud to partner with Elizabeth Emery’s Hear Her Sports podcast! Hear Her Sports is the podcast where female athletes share their experience and how to speak up, live with power and confidence, & do amazing things in today’s changing world. There are currently forty episodes available and a new episode is added every week! The YWCA will continue to fight and speak for all women who have experienced bias in their community. Click HERE to learn how you can get involved locally with the Hear Her Sports podcast!