Sports Where Women Earn as Much as Men

It’s pretty bizarre today that we’re still talking about a gender pay gap. Sure, there are lots of stories about companies trying their best to bridge that gap, and kudos to those that make genuine efforts. But when it comes to sports, we still have a long way to go. Late last year, we spoke about the struggle for equal pay in soccer and how female soccer players fight the good fight. The truth is that that is still the norm.

Still, despite all this doom and gloom, there are sports, such as poker and figure skating, where women received as much pay as men. Yes, believe it or not, there are sporting associations in this world that understand that men and women are equal. Imagine that!

Cross-Country Skiing

This sport is quite the anomaly, as it has always had parity in prize money at events. Whether it’s the World Cup Final or the IPC Athletics World Championships, men and women always receive rewards in the same way. The strange thing about this is that when it comes to professional downhill skiing, the wage gap is significantly wide.

The difference comes not in prize money but in the contracts negotiated by the skiers themselves. Although these contracts are highly confidential, Olympian and professional skier Lindsey Vonn feels the difference in salary is significant. Perhaps the downhill crew could learn a little from the cross-country folk.


While poker is open to anyone regardless of gender, there are still fewer women at the tables than men, but times are currently changing. The world of online poker has leveled the playing field, allowing more women to take part in a sport previously considered a men-only affair. The anonymity of playing online has given more women the confidence to play, now reflected in the live game.

There are now quite a few female professional poker players on the international circuit who make as much money if not more than their male counterparts. Loni Harwood, for example, has career earnings of almost $3 million while Joanne Liu has over $3.2 million in the bank. The only reason we have yet to see bigger winners is the simple fact that there are fewer women than men at the poker tables. But as we said, that’s currently changing, and at least the prize money is the same regardless of who you are.

World Wide Sports

Surprisingly enough, some of the world sports are actually good when it comes to parity. Associations throughout the world understand all too well that women’s athletics events draw as big a crowd as the men’s events. And so, since 1995, the world outdoor and indoor championships have offered equal prize money.

The Diamond League tour took longer, though, with equal pay only coming in 2010. Nevertheless, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) did come good. Better late than never, we guess.


In 2009, Courtney Conlogue won a surfing competition and earned herself a prize of $4,500, later upped to $10,000 due to her stunning performance on the waves. Doesn’t that sound good? That is until you find out that her male counterpart who rode the same waves walked away with $100,000.
There was no logical reason for the disparity, and so Conlogue began campaigning for equal pay. This year, all her hard work has finally paid off with the World Surf League now guaranteeing equal prize money for both male and female entrants. Incredibly, they are the first U.S.-based global sports league to offer equal prize money. That could be due to the fact that they are headed up by CEO Sophie Goldschmidt, who Forbes lists as the 15th most powerful woman in international sport. We need someone like Goldschmidt in soccer.

Figure Skating

Figure-skating legend Yuna Kim

Since 1995, figure skating has been an equal-pay sport, but when you think about it, the fact that there ever was a pay gap is quite unbelievable. If we were to ask you to name a famous figure skater, you would undoubtedly say Michelle Kwan or Nancy Kerrigan, yes? It’s a sport dominated by women, and so, pay parity made absolute sense.
If anything, figure skating is the one sport where women have more earning power outside the sport than men. Sponsorship deals and endorsements are easy to come by for female figure skaters but not quite as easy for their male counterparts. It’s a fascinating shoe-on-the-other-foot scenario that makes figure skating the opposite to male-dominated fields, such as pro boxing and even poker.


Serena Williams fights against pay disparity in tennis

A dishonorable mention of the worst kind goes to tennis. Yes, we remember how tirelessly Serena Williams campaigned for equal prize money at the four majors with Wimbledon the last to achieve parity in 2007. Unfortunately, that’s where it ends. On tour, men routinely earn more per tournament than women. And this is when both play the same number of games, sets and matches. What’s even worse is the fact that often, TV-viewing figures are higher for the women’s event than they are for the men’s.


Is this only worth €250,000?

A lot of men argue that pay parity doesn’t exist because certain female sports don’t draw in the crowds quite as much as male sports. And let’s be honest: in some cases, this is true. For example, if the women’s Champions League draws less of a TV audience, then the advertising revenue will be lower. But €250,000 for the winners when the men get €15.5 million? That’s a complete joke.

The male patriarchy in sports (especially tennis) needs removing from their perch and replacing with a strong, diverse team of leaders that includes both men and women. Until this happens, it’s unlikely that we’ll see too much of a reduction in the gender pay gap, although the sports mentioned above from poker to cross-country skiing do give us hope that it is possible.


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