Locked out of the riches: The gender pay gap in sports threatens to erase women from the Top 50 highest-paid athletes

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Wilson Blade 9

In a new article, Forbes points to a persistent gender pay gap in sports and the fact that the Top 50 highest-paid athletes list might soon not feature a single woman, just as was the case in 2017, 2018, and 2019.

Serena Williams

Even though tennis players receive equal prize money at Grand Slams, other tournaments are not nearly as progressive. For example, even this month’s Internazionali BNL d’Italia offers $8.5 million prize money to men and $3.9 million to women. Tennis players have the best standing among female athletes, as seven occupied the list of the Top 10 highest-paid female athletes in 2022. Regardless, the number of those who make the list of the world’s Top 50 earners in sports is ridiculously low. The situation is unlikely to change anytime soon.

This year, only Serena Williams made the Top 50, at modest position No.49, with $45.3 million earned in the past 12 months. The retired 23-time Grand Slam champion still benefits from lucrative endorsement deals, but Forbes projects her to drop out of the Top 50 next time around, as she’s pregnant with her second child and expected to dedicate the majority of her time to family.

Lack of exceptional tennis results and then pregnancy have kicked Naomi Osaka out of the prestigious list, even though she was the one who set an earnings record for female athletes in the 12 months ending May 1, 2021. At the time she ranked No.12 on the Forbes list of the world’s 50 highest-paid athletes, with an estimated $60 million, and had another strong showing at position No.19 the following year with an estimated $59.2 million.

Not only do women earn far less than men in professional sports, they also have fewer off-field opportunities compared to their male counterparts. The disparity was recently the topic of heated discussions when a transgender influencer appeared in a Nike ad wearing a sports bra — the incident was viewed as yet another example of men taking opportunities and sponsorship money from women.

Even though tennis is doing exceptionally well compared to other sports, WTA players and other female athletes still have a long way to go to experience true equality.

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