Battling the ‘Gender Pay Gap’: Four Sportswomen Who Are Making a Difference
When it comes to sport, the women’s competitions rarely come to mind first. In fact, the whole industry has traditionally been male-dominated. Thankfully, there are plenty of inspiring sportswomen in the picture to really change the game, but the truth of the matter is, they’re facing an uphill battle.
The COVID-19 pandemic has reportedly made the situation for women in sport even more difficult. According to research carried out by Nottingham Trent University published this February, two-thirds of elite female athletes are concerned about pandemic’s long-term financial impact, and eighty per cent of female athletes believe the growth of women’s sport during the pandemic has been hindered by inequalities compared with men’s sport. There have also been many concerns about women’s sport facing a lengthier lockdown than the men’s games, and many are concerned about women having less access to sport in general, labelling this problem: ‘the gender play gap.’
Despite such setbacks, women have worked tirelessly to change this perception and uproot the tired prejudices they have likely faced throughout their entire sporting career, and they are determined not to let the pandemic slow them down. Luckily, there are plenty of inspiring female sports stars who have taken it upon themselves to keep the momentum going. Unapologetically demanding our attention, these women have been raking in the trophies, speaking up about important issues, and inspiring fans everywhere over the past few years. Needless to say, the most influential women in sport aren’t going anywhere. Here are the ones to watch in post-lockdown women’s sport:
One sport that has gained momentum for the women’s game over recent years is football. In 2019, the funding was finally starting to reflect the talent of women in the sporting world, while media coverage and public interest was beginning to peak. We saw undeniable evidence of this during the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, in which crowds gathered across the country to cheer on England’s Lionesses against the unstoppable United States Women’s National Soccer Team. This movement wouldn’t have been possible without one all-star player, Megan Rapinoe. Winner of six global awards (the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup All-Star Team, the 2019 Ballon d’Or Féminin, the 2019 The Best FIFA Women’s Player, the 2019 FIFA FIFPro Women’s World XI, the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup Golden Ball, and the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup Golden Boot) Rapinoe’s international success is undeniable, and on par with the golden boys at the top of the dizzying heights of men’s football rankings.
Rapinoe has proved influential off the pitch as well as on it. In addition to her global success, she is hugely influential and has a devoted fan base (including her 2.2 million Instagram followers). She has used this platform for activism, regularly speaking out about the gender pay gap in the sports world, LGBTQ+ rights, and the Black Lives Matter movement.
She may be young, but Naomi Osaka has certainly made her mark, becoming the highest-paid female athlete ever at only 22 (according to Forbes). Anyone who beats Serena Williams in the final of the US Open is sure to get our attention, and Osaka achieved this incredible feat at the age of 20. Since then, Osaka has won two slam titles in her career and has been ranked number one by the Women’s Tennis Association. Furthermore, she remains the only player of Haitian or Asian descent to hold the top ranking in singles, and her list of breath-taking achievements goes on.
Although Osaka moved to New York from Japan when she was a child, she later decided to give up her US citizenship in order to represent Japan in the Olympics — a choice which Japan requires its athletes to make before the age of 22. As well as taking the world by storm, Osaka has been involved with influential stylish trainer collaborations, while addressing matters of sexism and racism within the sports industry in Japan and internationally — two issues she has been subjected to during her young career. Like Rapinoe, Osaka cultivates a strong following in her online community (with 1.1 million Instagram followers), and uses her platform for social activism and the championing of women in sports.
Officially named the fastest woman in British history, Dina Asher-Smith holds a worthy place in our run-down of influential sports stars. After smashing national records, Dina Asher-Smith was named in the 2019 Powerlist as one of the UK’s most influential people with African, African-Caribbean and African-American heritage.
Asher-Smith broke the British 100m record in London, but she didn’t stop there. She also went on to break the British 200m and 4x100m relay records at the World Championships in Doha in Qatar. She is certainly one to watch for the rescheduled 2021 Tokyo Olympics!
Young women everywhere are able to follow in her footsteps, as her career started through her enjoyment of running in her local park. Her background in park running in London is inspiring for young women everywhere. She has gone from strength to strength throughout her childhood and career, not to mention the 2:1 history degree she earnt at King’s College London. If there were ever an athlete that proved to young girls that they can excel in any way they choose, it’s Dina Asher-Smith.
Last but certainly not least, we have Allyson Felix, another sprinter. Like Asher-Smith, Felix is no one-trick pony. In fact, she’s the only American track and field sprinter to compete in the 100 metres, the 200 metres, and the 400 metres.
Felix secured her twelfth World Championships gold medal in 2019 at the Doha World Athletics Championships. This twelfth gold medal surpassed Usain Bolt’s world record. She didn’t even stop there — going on to win a thirteenth on the final day of the championships.
If that wasn’t already incredibly impressive, she managed this feat shortly after having her daughter in 2018. In November 2018 she also took on her sponsors over maternity rights, with one even planning to pay her 70 per cent less than before she’d had her child, leaving their contract at a standstill.
There’s no doubt that women have had to show strength, commitment and resilience to get to the top of their game. Although times are uncertain for the sports sector as a whole, these inspiring women are sure to bounce right back — they’ve already battled through adversity time and time again and inspired women everywhere, and there’s no doubt that they’ll be ready to get back into action in the post-lockdown world.