A Women on the Boards report has revealed that women are still under represented and under earning in sport.
The good news is that readers and TV viewers aren't all helpless pawns in the big money game: you can help.
The Women on the Board’s (WOB) UK ‘Gender Balance in Global Sport’ report concluded that “the huge pay gap in many sports is not likely to close anytime soon". It also highlighted that many sports governing bodies still have fewer than 30 per cent female representation on the board.
The report was based on analysis of over 300 governing bodies: nationally, internationally, and across able bodied and Paralympic sport.
The pay gap between men and women was highlighted in the report across a range of sports. It noted Cristiano Ronaldo as the world’s highest paid athlete with earnings of US$56 million whilst Serena Williams is the highest paid female athlete, at US$8.9 million.
75 per cent of Women’s World Tour teams would not be paying riders
Men’s Tour de France winner: over 1 million Euros. Women’s Giro Rosa winner: around 1,500 Euros.
The Gender Pay Gap in Cycling
In the case of cycling it was concluded that “women’s cycling, while not well remunerated, is making steady progress."
Representatives from WOB UK spoke to Tracey Gaudry, an ex-pro herself who is now Vice President of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI). She commented: “In cycling, while there has been a vast chasm historically between male and female remuneration and recognition -pay, conditions, prize money - much headway has been made in recent years in all disciplines including Road, BMX, MTB, Track and Cyclecross."
The UCI does seem to be leveling the road. Gaudry told us last week that they're looking at creating set of regulations ('cahier des charges’) for teams around pay. However - currently there are few rules.
WOB UK also spoke to UCI Hour Record holder and Australian team road racer, Dr Bridie O’Donnell. She commented: “There are fewer tiers of women’s teams than men also. So I would be guessing, but riders Like Marianne Vos might be making more than 150,000 Euro and Lizzie Armistead is for sure on a big salary but she also has big endorsement from Adidas and Oakley. But of the 40 registered Women’s World Tour teams, greater than 75 per cent would not be paying their riders."
Admittedly, O'Donnell does say she's guessing - we know the major teams are paying wages, but there are a few smaller outfits registered (go to women, elite > teams for a full list) too. Drops team manager, Bob Varney independently backed her up to us this summer when he told us: "We think that 70 to 80 per cent of the peloton are not paid… We like to look after our girls."
Gender Pay Gap in Cycling Prize Funds
Of course, we're not only talking salaries - but the prize funds.
WOB pulled out their own example: the men’s winner of the Tour de France gets more than 1 Million Euros while the women’s winner of the Giro Rosa Tour of Italy receives around 1,500 Euro. Last year, we pointed out that Elisa Longo Borghini took home £871 for her victory at the Tour of Flanders while the men’s winner Alexander Kristoff pocketed £14,365.
Some races are taking a stand. The Tour de Yorkshire and the Ride London Classique are two major examples and both adjusted their prize funds this year the ensure equality. As well as increasing their prize pot, RideLondon also decided to encourage other races to do the same by launching their #PedalParity campaign.
What can we do?
If all of the above feels like disheartening reading, it's because much of it is. Especially if you feel powerless in having any sort of effect on the situation.
The good news is that you are not powerless.
It won't not happen overnight, but where there are TV viewing figures, there will be TV. Where there is TV, there will be advertising and sponsorship: and ultimately money.
We know that women's cycling is growing. Brands are systematically reporting that the women's cycling audience is growing at a faster rate than the men's. We see that in interest in content geared towards women when it comes to riding, maintenance and fitness advice. And the brands we speak to on a regular basis are seeing it in sales.
Racing however? Ella Cycling Tips creator Wade Wallace put it well when he said: "Women’s race coverage attracts a predominantly male audience. Yes, that’s true. If you look at the numbers in isolation, it’s not commercially viable to cover women’s racing."
It really isn't. Advice content around riding gets the numbers, race coverage is largely a labour of love - because the rider's stories are so beautiful and so interesting, because their characters and racing lives so exiting to follow. And because they deserve the limelight.
Can I be completely honest?
Following the Women's Tour represents TWC's greatest financial loss of the year.
Write about pay gaps in women's racing, and we'll generate page views. So obviously readers want the women in the peloton to earn the same as the men. Write about the actual racing, and we won't. We do it anyway - in the interest of progression. But we're putting out necks on the line and making a loss if we spend any money on getting to races. The Women's Tour has been heralded a huge success in drawing the media, but following it represents TWC's greatest financial loss of the year.
If we genuinely want to see the pro female riders get a better deal, if we want to see the sport be taken more seriously - we have to vote with our eyes, our ears, and our hearts.
What can you do?
Supporting women's racing is easy once you get the hang of who and how to follow. Sure, your favourite race might not always be on the TV - but the women's cycling community has become very industrious with its resources...
- Read: race updates. At TWC we recently added a 'racing news' section to make it easier for you to find up to date coverage. Write ups from old events will be under 'Road Events' or 'Mountain Bike Events'.
- Follow: everyone! There's a huge women's cycling network on Twitter. Start here and you'll quickly come across pro riders and team managers to add to your personal news wire. And it won't all just be race updates. You'll get to know what the riders are up to off the bike, too - which is always fun
- Follow: races! Most races have their own profiles on Facebook and Twitter. If they don't, there will usually be a hashtag which you can use to collect up to date news. Self proclaimed 'women's cycling aficionado' Sarah Connolly produces a blog with hashtag info as well as TV schedules for most major races
- Watch: VoxWomen have been hugely successful - starting with a YouTube channel that quickly became a series of TV shows. Keep supporting them to see more women's cycling on TV.
- Listen: for updates from the UCI Women's Cycling channels. They've been building up a hub sharing over the last year or so, and you'll find they share some great post race YouTube videos
- Share! Once you've found all this cool info, share it! With your friends, with your colleagues. With anyone who will listen. Tell them the stories of the pros - because the first rule of sports journalism is that it's the stories that bring racing alive
- Tell us! Not enjoying our race coverage? Something you want to see done differently? More pictures? Fewer pictures? We want to know!
Viewing figures aren't the be all and end all - and a lot has to change in management structures at the top too. However, it's not all red tape and titles. Just turning on the TV or opening an article can have an effect - and that way we all have the opportunity to be part of the change we want.