Of the 100 highest-paid athletes in the world, only three are women. They are Maria Sharapova, Li Na and Serena Williams.
We should be disappointed by the lack of gender equality in professional sports, but probably not surprised. Kobe Bryant makes three times as much as every WNBA player combined. Women soccer players earn a mere 3 percent of what their male counterparts make.
But tennis is different.
Since 2007, the prize money for all four grand slams has been divided equally among men and women players. And at next week’s BNP Paribas Open, the men’s and women’s champions will each take home a $1 million prize. Endorsements, too, have helped close the gender wage gap in professional tennis. While Novak Djokovic’s salary is higher than Maria Sharapova’s, she makes more money in endorsements than he.
But men and women haven’t always been equal on the tennis court.
It was the voices of tennis players like Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert and Venus Williams that called for equal pay in professional tennis. It was WTA President Stacey Allaster, the only woman running a worldwide professional sports organization, who campaigned for equal prize money at Roland Garros and Wimbledon.
Gender equality, of course, does not just comprise equal pay.
“There’s still so much more to be done, so much more to be done,” Allaster said last year.
The International Tennis Federation has not one woman on its board. Last year, when Andy Murray hired a woman as his coach, people were shocked. And female coaches are a scarcity in the WTA as well.
But this month we celebrate the milestones made in women’s tennis. March is Women’s History Month, during which we recognize the contributions of athletes, lawmakers, educators, stay-at-home mothers and tennis players alike.
We have role models in Maria, Na and Serena and hundreds of other women who are pursuing their dreams of playing professional tennis. Perhaps soon we will see more women among the highest paid athletes in the world.