Gender Pay Discrepancy

The gender gap pay discrepancy between men and women has remained relatively stable
in the United States over the past 15 years. Going into 2022, women earn 82 cents for every $1
men earn when comparing all women to men, a stat that has remained unchanged from 2021
according to compensation data and software firm PayScale’s 2022 State of the Gender Pay Gap
Report released March 15. [1] This gap has been effortlessly explained by measurable factors
such as educational attainment, occupational segregation, and work experience, although these
factors seem to amount to excuses. Women have made attempts to increase their presence in
higher-paying jobs that have been traditionally dominated by men. These positions include
professional and managerial positions but, women continue to be overrepresented in lower
paying occupations relative to their share in the workforce while men continue to dominate the
higher managerial jobs. [2] One of the factors not mentioned but are not attainable in terms of
measurement are gender discrimination, which heavily contributes to the ongoing wage
discrepancy. Further, more factors such as motherhood can also lead to interruptions in women’s
career paths that can have a long-lasting impact on long-term earnings. This discrepancy has
been heavily shown other fields as well.

In terms of sports, historically, participation has been discriminatory. Men have been
favored over women as sports have been an ‘inappropriate’ field for women to obtain a career

and excel in. Women’s participation in sports have grown over the years and women have been
rooting their names and legacy in sports. The generation of revenue is often used as the main
argument to legitimize and excuse the discrepancy in pay in sports. Mainly, revenue generated
by male players in sports and the returns they create versus what women generate and return is
the primary reason for the discrepancy. Alongside revenue and returns are endorsements, sports
merchandising, and ticket sales. The only way to try and stabilize this equal the numbers are by
changing viewership and fanbases. This, however, is heavily influenced by the predisposition
that sports were created and maintained for strictly males. Women’s entry in the sports field
happened much later than men due to societal restrictions and societal norms. The lower
entertainment value of women’s sports is the result from the societal restrictions and societal
norms. Men’s sports have always been allowed and encouraged driving it to become a primary
form of entertainment and in result, a global sensation, the perfect form of revenue. Further,
historically, fans and viewers of sports have primarily been men while women are often
restrained by systemic barriers and societal norms. To put in perspective, men’s sports involve
things like tackling, roughness, fights, etc. Not to say that female sports don’t involve difficult
and stressful situations, but women’s sports usually do not allow fighting or unnecessary
roughness while in men’s sports it is encouraged. The misogynistic system rooted in many
people’s beliefs have discouraged anyone besides men from having roughness in sports. In turn,
it creates less intensity and highlight’s a fear of weakness in women sports.

Another argument used to defend the pay gap is the difference in physiques. Men have
been described as tough, stronger, more determined and driven while women are unintentionally
described as weak, helpless, not capable of competing at the same level as men whether it is in

everyday activities or in sports. Due to societal norms and regularities, if a woman needs help
with anything involving physical activity the common answer would be, “Can we get a strong
man to help lift this” or “This is a man’s job.” These phrases have been regularly implemented
and used so it is no one’s fault but just a standard that has been used and normalized. While it is
true that men have better strength and speed than women, these are the only two aspects of a
body which matter in sports, and they cannot form the basis to pay men more than women.
Women tend to be better at other aspects like balance and flexibility. To combat and change this
standard it would be helpful to change some formalities in sports. In sports such as basketball,
swimming and diving, track and field, soccer, tennis, and golf all the men and women’s
competition are almost identical with only a few rules differences. [3] In general,
accommodations are made for the fact that women are smaller and less muscular than men. For
instance, in professional tennis, men play five sets per match and women play three sets per
match. [4] This rule assumes that women cannot physically handle the longevity of the game and
they are too weak to play all five. In women’s hockey full body checking is not legal while in
men’s hockey it is highly encouraged and can be a switch in momentum. In track and field, men
throw a 16-pound shot put while women use an 8.8-pound shot. [5] Golf courses have several
tees for each hole while women typically play the forward or middle tees rather than the longer
tees. In high school basketball, the girls’ ball is 1 inch smaller in circumference and 2 ounces
lighter than the boys’. [6] For many years women were intentionally held back in sports based on
this physiological inferiority. From the years 1932 through 1956, women ran no farther than 200
meters at the Olympics and now, women run the same events as men. [7] This split in rules is an
attempt to allow women and men to enjoy the benefit of sports however, it is inherently rooted
with a belief that women cannot compete to the same level as men.

A recent new mixture of state laws and NCAA rule changes went into effect starting July
1, 2021 that provide student athletes through all division to profit off of their name, image and
likes (NIL) rights. [8] This recent change means that now, college athletes can sign sponsorship
deals with corporate brands, charge money for autographs, and create their own brand. [9] Prior
to NIL, the NCAA prohibited student-athletes from earning anything beyond what a scholarship
provided. Student athletes were not allowed to have a job or receive monetary or non-monetary
compensation. [10] If this rule was broken, student athletes would lose their eligibility, which
meant they would not be able to continue playing for their school. [11] As soon as the NIL
legislation was passed at the state level, athletes took advantage of the new opportunity
immediately. The NCAA soon after passed a rule allowing all college athletes to participate in
deals regardless of whether it was allowed by each individual state. [12] There are essentially
four key aspects of NIL:

  1. “Athletes can engage in the activities under NIL rights per the rules of the NCAA and
    your state, and the schools you attend can only act as a resource for legal and compliance
  2. Athletes can use professional service providers in the pursuit of NIL activities.
  3. Student-athletes in states that do not have specific NIL laws can still participate in these
    deals without violating NCAA regulations.
  4. Schools and athletic conferences can impose reporting requirements on schools and
    athletes as they see fit”

There are many important components included in the NIL process. Once there is an agreed
upon deal that each party wants to pursue, both sides need to sign a contract that states the terms
of the deal. [13] Then once the expectations of the athlete are performed, the payment will be
received in cash or in merchandise or apparel. [14] Lastly, compliance is the final component
which a step that needs to be constantly monitored. [15]
While this new component to college sports is a step in the right direction for some,
female athletes are still facing a pay discrepancy. While a whole new class of athletes are now
eligible to monetize their name and image, there is evidence that those opportunities aren’t
coming equally to all athletes involved. According to a recent study of college NIL deals by
Opendorse, “71.7% of deals have gone to men while only 28.3% have gone to women. [16] The
most-compensated college sport by far is football – the male only sport takes 50.6% of
endorsements overall, with women’s basketball a distant second at 18.5% of total
compensation.” [17] To put it bluntly, women college athletes are receiving fewer sponsorships,
and less compensation overall than their male peers. Popularity on social media is a key
component to receive a good NIL deal, which is why it is believed that the NIL pay gap boils
down to sexism as well. The well-publicized March Madness scandal last year highlights this
discrepancy. Athlete Sedona Prince highlighted the apparent gender discrimination through a
popular social media platform, Tik Tok. Sedona compared the weight rooms set aside for the
men’s basketball teams at the NCAA tournament bubble in Indianapolis and the women’s teams
at the bubble in San Antonio. The women were given one small rack of low-weight dumbbells
(under 30s) and yoga mats while the men had access to a fully outfitted weightlifting facility.
[18] Further highlighted were the gifts and meals presented to the women’s and men’s teams.
[19] Also, there were reports of the men and women’s team using different COVID-19 tests, the

men’s team used daily “gold standard” PCR tests while the women’s teams used daily antigen
tests. [20] Shortly after this post, both NBA and WNBA players including Steph Curry, Sabrina
Ionescu, Kyle Irving and A’ja Wilson threw their support behind the women’s teams on social
media. [21] The baseline reasoning behind the discrepancy is because men’s sports make more
money through TV popularity. To combat this issue, there needs to be a fix to the TV popularity
gap. There is not a talk-show that is dedicated to women’s sports alone on the primetime slot for
sports. That is because people are conditioned that men and men ins ports are the norm. Since
people are used to this, and this is what they grew up with on TV, that is what they are used to.
In addition to increasing the popularity of women’s sports, another way to even the amount of
money made through NIL deals is by taking advantage of Title IX which is celebrating their 50-
year anniversary. [22]

Lately, through college sports and NIL, there is the probability of a collision with Title
IX. Some recent potential Title IX violations include universities training men’s basketball teams
on how to navigate the world of contracts and agents, but not training any women’s teams. [23]
Universities allowing the football team members to use their trademarked logo in ads for sports
apparel brands, but not for any women’s teams. [24] Women’s swimming and diving team
holding meeting with various vendors to feature their team members on the websites but not
men’s team coaches holding similar meetings. [25] Men’s baseball team members being paid by
universities apparel partners to have jerseys sold with their name on the back, but no female
athletes being offered similar deals. In college athletics, Title IX regulations required almost all
schools to, “provide athletic opportunity for members of both sexes.” (34 C.F.R. § 106.41 (c))
[26] Equal athletic opportunity includes the equal treatment of male and females throughout the

athletic program, which include equipment and supplies, facilities, travel, meals, coaching,
training, tutoring and now with it includes publicity. [27] If the university arranges or offers
deals and encourages deals just for men and not women or vice versa, the violations will come

Transgender individuals also face significant wage disparities on the job. Transgender
women especially face an extremely significant wage disparity. One study found that the
earnings of female transgender workers fell by nearly one-third following their gender
transitions. [28] That same study found that the earnings of male transgender workers slightly
increased following their transition. [29] Conclusively, transgender men may experience a wage
advantage rather than a wage penalty. [30] In addition to the potentially significant workplace
discrimination in hiring and firing based on their gender identity, transgender women experience
significant pay gaps largely attributable to their gender. [31] Transgender women have fought for
inclusion in women’s sports and various governing bodies have implemented rules for mitigating
any potential physical advantages that transgender athletes might have. [32] However, the
advantages and how to counteract them, and whether it is possible, has been debated. The
International Olympic Committee began allowing transgender athletes to compete in 2004. [33]
Initially, the Committee required athletes to legally change their gender and undergo genital
surgery, and six years later the NCAA took a different approach. [34] The NCAA decided that
transgender women would be able to compete in women’s teams after one year of testosterone
suppression. [35] Later, the Committee adopted a similar rule. Lia Thomas, while not the first
trans swimmer in the NCAA, recently became the center of debate about transgender athletes.

Transgender athletes and compensation are still quite unprecedented. However, after the
uproar after Lia Thomas, this is not a topic that is going away any time soon. Would a man
transitioning to a woman see a decrease in compensation in the sports world? What about a
woman transitioning to a man? Will the marketing alone increase their pay because it is so
precedented? Or will you have political views that could influence the result as well? This seems
to be unmarked territory, especially with NIL coming to life last year. Based on the inherent
discrimination women already face, it wouldn’t be surprising if women continued to face

So how do we combat gender discrimination? To start, ensuring equal access to
education, 88% of females had primary educated compared to 91% of males. [37] The 2021
report concludes that it will take over 14 years to close to gap entirely. [38] Empowering women
in the workplace can greatly combat discrimination. In most workplaces there are more men than
women in high-level positions, this can be tackled by offering paid leave and childcare,
supporting more women in senior roles, and reviewing salaries. [39] The Covid-19 pandemic
had a big effect on workplace gender equality, more women than men left their jobs often
because women tend to do more childcare. [40] Starting at a societal level can help the societal
norms change and trickle into the sports world. Supporting all women’s and girls’ sports as a fan
or player can help. It is not about women mirroring the success of male athletes but allowing
women in sports to compete on the same stage.

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University at Buffalo School of Law Class of 2023
Former college softball player, now focusing on the start of my legal career with the hope that I can continue combining my love for sports with my love for the law.
Go Bills

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