Carlos A. Diaz Marin
Student No. 8437947
Tutor: Michelle Cornford



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This is a photo of the winners of the 2012 Nike U.S. Open of Surfing at Hunting Beach, California, taken by the Association of Professional Surfers (ASP). Australian Julian Wilson and American Lakey Peterson were the winners in their respective categories. This event was held from 28 July to 5 August 2012. This event is considered as one of the most important events in the surfing circuit because of the quality of participants, drawing the top surfers from around the world, the prize purse which is over $300,000 (including $100,000 for the men’s winner and $15,000 for the women’s winner) and the festival-like atmosphere of the nine day event.


In recent years, government and health organisations have been promoting the benefits and positive affect of women in sport and women that have a physically active lifestyle. Greydanus and Patel (2002) state that encouraging girls in sports at early ages can help them to develop an interest in sport as well as help them to interact with a wide range of peers with the same interests and experiences. Being physically active during a female’s life will result in a range of benefits including a healthy lifestyle, less obesity, mentally healthy and reduce the risk for breast cancer. Research has shown that girls that are involved in sport during high school are more likely to finish their studies on time, have less pregnancies concerns in their adolescence and have a better level of confidence when there are interacting with their peers. From an early age, girls need to be taught about the importance of females in sport, that they have the same ability as boys and to encourage them to participate in order to raise the profile of women in sport.


Participation of females in sport at amateur and professional levels has increased considerably in Western culture over the last 40 years and it is now more common for women to participate in sport or spend their leisure time doing their favorite physical activity. In the London 2012 Olympic Games, every country that participated had at least one female athlete representing their nation and for the first time three Muslim nations sent female athletes to the Olympics. However, the reality of sport sustaining one’s livelihood is a major concern facing many female athletes. The substantial difference in salary and prize money for male and female professional athletes is a well known fact. Although the ability of females as professional athletes is recognised across the world, women do not have the same opportunity to earn the same money as male athletes.

In the 2012 U.S. Open of Surfing, male winner Julian Wilson took home $100,000 in prize money, while female winner, Lakey Peterson won a mere $15,000. Both of these athletes do the same profession, compete under the same conditions and ride the same waves but there is a major difference in prize money. There are numerous factors that can influence the purse (the money that is shared with all the competitors) in sporting events, which can explain why men get paid more than women. Firstly, the media coverage of men’s sporting events is much higher than that of women’s sporting events. The more television exposure or media coverage a sporting event receives, the more money that is likely to be invested into the event, therefore resulting in the increase of the purse money. Numerous research has found that the reporting and coverage of male athletes and male sporting events dominates television, newspapers and sport magazines. The Conversation website states “less than 5% of the space or articles were on women’s sport and more than 90% were on men’s regardless of which newspaper or day of the week. One student noted that there was more coverage of horseracing than women’s sport in the media they analysed.” In addition, Janet (1998) states that “a study of photographs conducted by Los Angeles Times and New York Post (Miller, 1975) found that the sports section in each newspaper devoted a significantly smaller percentage of photographs to women than the other sections of the papers and that male photographs ‘dominated’ the sports section”. While Bryant (1980) reports “Women athletes were ignored completely or under-represented in the sport magazines Sports Illustrated, Tennis, and Runners World”.

A second reason as to why male athletes get paid more than female athletes is attendance at sporting events. The attendance at male sporting events is much higher than female sporting events. This means more tickets are sold and more money can be invested into the event which results in more media coverage. The best example to explain this situation is the National Basketball Association (NBA) and Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). This sport is recognised around the world and has a massive impact on American society. Male’s players are well-known for their skill and salaries, however it is vastly different for female basketball players that have the same skill, ability and talent. As cited on the Inside Hoops website, one of the biggest salaries for a female basketball player is around US$87,000 plus a bonus of US$10,000 if they win the season. On the other hand the wages of a top NBA player in one season is around US$20 million. In the same website it can be found that the average attendance per NBA game is 17.558 people and for WNBA are 6.680 people. Three times as many people are going to watch male basketball games therefore resulting in more tickets sold and more money available to invest in the NBA.

Sue Bird – WNBA Shaquille O’Neal – NBA

WNBA maximum salary: US$87,000 2005-06 salary: US$20 million

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A third reason why females get paid less than males is sponsorship. The amount of sponsorship that female athletes receive is much lower than male athletes. This is due to the television and magazine coverage that male athletes and male sporting teams receive. It is much easier for male athletes to get sponsored and therefore endorse the brand that they are promoting. The more television or media coverage the athlete receives increases his popularity and fame and the popularity of the brand they are endorsing. However, it is not the same for women and sponsorships are not as common for female athletes.

What is comes down to is sport as a business and how to make the most money from this business. It’s not about women’s ability and how good they may be as athletes and the opportunities they get to compete at internationally renowned events and circuits, it’s about what sells and what is going to make more money. Sport is a male-dominated industry driven by media and sponsorship.


For decades female athletes have been fighting for equality, acceptance and to have the same opportunities as male athletes. Organisations like the Journal of Physical Education, Recreation and Dance have developed new strategies with the aim to get women more involved as carriers in sport and to raise awareness about the importance of women in sport. In her article, Lori (1998) identifies ways in which sports organisations can assist and promote more opportunities of girls and women in sport. These include establishing mentor programs between older females involved in sport and young girls, involvement with professional associations which helps get individuals and teams noticed in the sporting industry and for sponsorship and participating in traditionally male-dominated networking activities. Organisations can invite women to participate in traditionally male activities to break the myth that some physical activities are just for a man. With women being more involved in sport will hopefully raise the profile, importance and investment of money into female athletes and female sporting events therefore giving females more opportunities to make sport a sustainable career.


Working on this assignment has given me the opportunity to see the sporting industry from another point of view and to see how male-dominated the industry really is. The research I conducted revealed that women are grossly discriminated against when it comes to salaries and prize money. Society needs to change their attitude and view of female athletes and regard them as able, skillful and talented professionals that are deserving of the same opportunities and earning capacity as male athletes. I found that female athletes train the same as men, are professionals in their sport the same as men, incur the same expenses (travel, coaches, nutritionists, physiotherapists etc.) as men, but are not being paid anywhere near the same as male athletes. The photograph I selected for this assignment shows exactly this. Two surfing professionals, surfing the same waves in the same competition but walking away with completely different figures of prize money because one is male and one is female. This research has allowed me to have a lot more respect for female athletes and understand their fight for equality and opportunity in a male-dominated industry.


Greydanus D, Patel, D. (June 2002). The female athlete: Before and beyond puberty, Pediatric – volume 49, issue 3 (June 2002).

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Janet, S. F. (1998). Female athletes and the media. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 69(6).

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Lori, K. M. (1998). Promoting career opportunities for girls and women in the sport industry. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 69(5), 32-35.

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Other sources of information

Comparison of male and female athlete’s salaries

Top 30 salaries between males and females

The Coversation website

Inside Hoops website

Nike U.S. Open of Surfing