Want to support female pro athletes? Watch the sports committed to equal pay


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Photo: Stocksy/Olga Sinenko

The Battle of the Sexes is an ongoing fight in the athletic world that’s hardly limited to tennis. But last week, pro-surfer women who just want to hang ten with the best of ’em finally gained some better-late-than-never traction regarding the right to equal pay.

The wage gap is finally closed in the World Surf League, a 1976-founded organization known for running major competitions across the globe. In a press release, CEO Sophie Goldschmidt promises that all WSL-controlled events—including the World Championship Tour, Junior World Championship Tour, Longboard Tour, and the Big Wave surfing tour—will immediately instate the policy moving forward.

Of the 35 sports that offer cash compensation at a world level, only 25 report paying equal prize money to males and females.

While, yes, this news is totally gnarly, I can’t help but wonder why it’s taking so long for all pro-level sports to adopt the policy of awarding equal prize money to both women and men. Because TBH, the progress has been slow: A BBC News report from 2014 asked the governing body of 56 sports who play on the world stage whether or not they stuck with the same pay grade, regardless of gender. And of the 35 that offer cash compensation at a world level, only 25 report paying equal prize money to males and females. Here’s the breakdown:

Sports that offer equal prize money to women and men: Figure skating, gymnastics, horse racing, the marathon, sailing, ski jumping, snowboarding, swimming, tennis, and others.

Sports that don’t offer higher prize money to men and women as of 2014:

• Squash, which paid men about $21,000 more than women in the World Championships.
• Golf, which paid men almost $900,000 more in prize money than women in the Open alone.
• Soccer, which paid men about $27 million more than women in the World Cup alone.
• Cricket, which paid men more than $3 million more than women in the World Cup alone.

And still, there are more differences depending on the competition under the umbrella of each sport.

All this is to say that if you’re watching sports on an international stage, remember that what you choose to support is either widening or helping to close the wage gap. Basically, until all remaining inequitable organizations follow the World Surf League’s suit and fair payment is a reality across the board—or rather globe—your screen time is much better spent watching volleys, backstrokes, and wave-shredding.

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