So we’ve had feminism, we’ve had equal employment opportunities, we’ve had positive discrimination – then why are women still being paid 17.9 per cent less than men? Nowhere is the gender pay gap more evident right now than in sport, where our national women’s soccer team, The Matildas, have gone on strike to protest their paltry $21k per annum wage.
You’d think when you’d made it to the top of your country’s tree in the world’s most lucrative and popular sport, that you’d at least be earning above your country’s minimum wage. (Which, by the way is $34,158 per annum.) You wouldn’t be expecting to have to take a second job. I mean, it’s not like you’re going to place your order at the McDonald’s drive through only to find Tim Cahill at the next window.
No, our national men’s team are paid considerably more. No need for our male soccer stars to supplement their income with a bit of door-to-door selling or cleaning hotel rooms. So why are our women athletes so disrespected? For instance, if our girls make it to a tournament final they get a $1,500 bonus. Our boys get $11,500. For a standard international game our girls get $500, our boys get $6,500.
This guaranteed income of $21k makes up for the fact that the women don’t benefit from the lucrative wages from professional clubs and sponsorships that have our male players pushing into seven figures for their annual income. It raises the question: Why would any woman want to become an elite athlete if that career path was a fast track to poverty?
When you play for the Matildas you shouldn’t be finding it difficult to make your mortgage payments, not when our Socceroos are driving Italian sports cars and owning investment properties.
When gold-medal-winning Olympic champion Natalie Cook first started training for the Australian Olympic Team in her chosen sport of volleyball, she had to go door to door selling Big Ben pies. Somehow I can’t imagine Ian Thorpe ever having to push sausage rolls to buy his time in the pool.
I wonder whether Meg Lanning, the captain of our Australian women’s cricket team, has pulled the dollars Michael Clarke managed as captain… somewhere in the vicinity of $5.5 million. Our Southern Stars celebrated with bats raised in triumph when they received a pay rise this year that means that their leading players could now earn up to $85k over the following year. Having to keep a second job while representing your country internationally has women’s sporting achievements relegated to that of ‘hobby players’ as compared to our men who are clearly ‘elite professionals’.
The key problem in raising women’s sporting income comes down to audiences, and thus sponsors. If no-one is watching, then no-one is sponsoring, and then no-one is getting paid much.
So why isn’t women’s sport a more lucrative market? Why aren’t we fighting our blokes for the remote on a Sunday arvo so we can watch our national netball league? Why doesn’t the viewing public care about women’s sports? And what can the market place do to increase audience engagement?
Perhaps The Matildas could start playing in their undies. Hang on, someone has already thought of that. It’s called Lingerie Football and it features women playing gridiron in skimpy undies and bra tops. And I’m not talking soft-porn jelly wrestling; I am talking hard body-slamming football, with only a flimsy gusset for protection. And yes, it not only gets good crowds in the US, and now over here in Australia; it also makes it to the telly.
But guess what, even with the titillation and the degradation, the women still don’t get paid that much. In professional sport, as in the workplace in general, the men are still wearing the pants. Of course, we’re at home ironing them. Perhaps ironing man pants would be a good second job for our female sporting heroes. Perhaps The Matildas could start with the men in the FFA, while they’re still wearing them.