Equal pay among the sexes has been an ongoing source of consternation for decades. As of 2017, the average full-time female employee earned only 82 percent of the wages of her male counterpart. In fields like sports, where men have had a majority hold, this discrepancy in earnings is even sharper. Female athletes were only pulling in a pittance when compared to males within the same sport. Not to mention the fact that male athletes get more recognition and sponsorship. The whole world stops to watch the World Cup when it’s the men playing, but what about women’s championships? It’s doubtful that they’re even televised across as many channels.
Despite these pitiful earnings prospects for women, skiing seems to be one of the outliers. According to the International Ski Federation, the top-tier female alpine skiers have earned more than males for two consecutive years. Mikaela Shiffrin, an American alpine skier, has earned more prize money than anyone else in the sport, regardless of gender.
Megan Harrod, an Alpine Press Officer for the Ski and Snowboard Team of the United States, says that discussions about equal pay make the discrepancy between male and female earnings totals into a more insane perspective. Harrod applauded the fact that female skier were earning more than male skiers and likened this state as a golden age for female athletes.
One of the explanations for this spike in female financial success is because FIS demands equal prize money minimums for each Audi FIS World Cup event. Findings from a BBC study, covering 44 different prize-money-awarding sports, alpine skiing was the only sport among a pool of 35 which equally distributed prize money between athletes, regardless of their gender.
Harrod commented that FIS athletes are honored to participate in a sport that acknowledges paying its athletes the same amount of money, regardless of their sex. Harrod has often compared female skiiers to various professional female soccer players, including Abby Wambach. Wambach finished her career with a record-setting goal count and an annual salary of $200,000; conversely, Lionel Messi, a male pro soccer player with a less exemplary record made $50 million annually.
The US Women’s World Cup Soccer Team has claimed three wins in the FIFA World Cup since it began 30 years ago; the men’s team has failed to become finalists in the 90 year existence of the Men’s Soccer World Cup. Despite FIFA World Cup 2015’s final game between US Women against Japan being the most-viewed soccer game in American history, they only earned $2 million; this year’s Men’s World Cup winners received $38 million.
But, hopefully with skiing leading the way, other sports will soon fall in line. Regardless, it’s encouraging to see skiing working to diminish those barriers.