LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - No female athletes featured on a ranking of the top 100 highest paid sports stars released by Forbes on Wednesday, in what campaigners said was the latest “stark example” of women being undervalued.
Forbes said the list, released as industries around the world are under intense pressure over equal pay, had “long been testosterone-heavy”, but it was the first year since 2010 that no women featured on it.
Tennis star Serena Williams was the sole female representative in the rankings last year and dropped off the new list after taking a break for the birth of her daughter.
“Women are consistently undervalued and sadly this is just one of many very stark examples,” Sam Smethers, chief executive of British equality charity Fawcett Society, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“Time and again we see men dominating the best paid roles from the sports field to the boardroom.”
American boxer Floyd Mayweather, whose career earnings amounted to $1 billion, took top spot for the fourth time in seven years.
Forbes calculates stars’ earnings by combining salaries, bonuses and prize money. Endorsement fees are also added.
“There are two drivers of income for athletes, the amount they get paid and the endorsements that they have,” said Jon Long, UK managing director of sports marketing research firm Nielsen Sports.
“Females who were on the list in the past were there because of endorsements.”
Other women who previously featured were tennis players Li Na, now retired, and Maria Sharapova, who was kicked out of the ranks last year after a drug suspension.
Long said while interest in some women sports was growing, they lacked the financial backing given to tournaments like British soccer’s Premier League and American football NFL.
As a result, the pay gap was likely to remain, activists said, calling for greater efforts to reform sports.
Additional reporting by Umberto Bacchi, Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org