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Forbes just published a list of the highest paid athletes. There's something missing.

Floyd Mayweather

By NATALIA HAWK

Forbes recently published their annual list of the highest-paid athletes in the world.

At the top of the list was Floyd Mayweather, a boxer who earns a whopping $105 million.

All of the world’s other sporting favourites – Cristiano Ronaldo, LeBron James, Tiger Woods, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal – were all right behind Mr-Moneybags-Mayweather, with all of them earning from the $44 million to $80 million mark.

But there was something missing from the list.

Bet you can guess what it is, right? (I’ll give you a hint – this website is dedicated to them.)

Women. There were barely any women on the list of highest-paid athletes in the world. Of the 100 people featured in the list, only three of them were women.

These women were Maria Sharapova, Li Na and Serena William. All of them are tennis players and the great majority of their cashola comes from endorsements, rather than prize money.

Are you surprised? No, I wasn’t either. I’ve been writing Mamamia’s Sport on Saturdays column for over a year now and every week, it’s the same story.

Female athletes are amazing. They are breaking world records, they are winning gold medals, they are performing remarkably on both international and national levels. And yet they get little recognition and little remuneration for their efforts.

This is particularly true in Australia, where women’s sport is very low on our list of interests. According to research from the Australian Sports Coverage, only 9% of general sports coverage in Australia has anything to do with women in sport.

We are more interested in horse-racing than we are in our female netball players, soccer players, basketball players, swimmers, snowboarders.

Stephanie Brantz has been a sports presenter since 2000, and has worked across the ABC, Fox Sports and the Nine Network. Prior to presenting, Stephanie excellent in netball, swimming and basketball. She will also be chairing the Asia Pacific Sport and Women Conference on the 17th and 18th of October, which will focus on women’s sports coverage and sponsorship dollars.

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I chatted to her about why the women’s sport is so woefully underrepresented in the media. Here’s what she had to say:

Stephanie Brantz

 

Natalia: Why do you think it is important for more women’s sport to be shown in the media?

Stephanie: I’ve been involved in a lot of women’s sport, especially since I’ve been at the ABC. We do the basketball, the W-league football, the golf, the Hockeyroos and various other sports that the big networks aren’t always that interested in.

It’s important for girls to have people that they can look up to. It’s been shown that girls look up to women who play sport and research has linked it to better academic results at school, a higher rate of going through to university. And in an era where we are told from a young age that looks are everything, sport is a wonderful avenue for giving girls confidence, self-esteem and better body image.

Unfortunately for the coverage women get, it’s difficult for girls to have any perception of the career path – because they can’t make a living from it. I played a lot of sport at school, and when I was in year 12, my parents were quite firm about the fact that I would have to go to university – because I couldn’t make a living out of playing sport. The fact that I ended up making a living out of talking about sport is a completely different thing!

N: What do you say to people who argue that women’s sport just isn’t as good as men’s sport?

S: The girls are as good as the guys – but in their own competition. It’s a fact of life that men and women are built differently. In the strength and speed sports, it’s never going to be the same. If anything, I think men and women can compete against each other in golf, because it’s more of a mental game – less to do with physical strength. I often wonder if that’s why we get such good numbers for our golf coverage – men can obviously see their skill.

I don’t think that men and women can compete on that level playing field against each other, but women can excel in their own right and that’s who they should be competing against.

I often get men saying that the women’s sport is really slow and boring – it’s not. I cover the Matildas and the game used to be slower, but with the different sport sciences, they’ve really developed these girls into supreme athletes that play a strong, physical game.

But a lot of people also say to me that there’s not enough women’s sport. And to those people, I say – tune in! If there’s this overwhelming demand, then someone would be answering it. But we are limited in what we can show, and if there is no demand, we struggle to say, “oh, we need more funding.”

So on one hand, people say it’s not good enough, and on the other hand, people say, “it’s great! We want to see more!” but they’re not tuning in, in massive numbers.

N: What’s it going to take to get more money and more coverage for the girls?

S: It’s a vicious circle with sponsorship dollars. You could be the best in the world, but if no one sees it, you’re not famous. Therefore no one’s going to throw money at you. Therefore there’s no benefit there for a sponsor’s product. When you add that to the fact that for women, there’s a perception that if you’re going to appeal as an ambassador, you’re probably going to be easy on the eye, which adds a degree of difficulty.

You don’t see women’s sport week-in, week-out on national television – not their competitions in their entirety, like the NRL or the A-league or the AFL. They’re not familiar to the everyday person on the street.

It’s just a case of getting people used to it. You know what? Yes, I’m chairing this conference about women’s sport. But we’ll know when we’ve reached equality when we don’t need to have conferences anymore.

And in other sporting news from the week…

– Australian cricketer Meg Lanning is about to become Channel Nine’s first female commentator for men’s cricket. 22-year-old Meg is currently the captain of our Aussie women’s cricket team, the Southern Stars, and she’s been welcomed on to the traditionally all-male panel to commentate the Matador BBQ’s Cup, which is our domestic 50-over tournament. If all goes well, she’s lined up to also commentate the Twenty20 games between Australia and South Africa later in the year. Congratulations, Meg!

-The women’s baseball world cup kicked off in Japan this week. Round one saw our Emeralds score a win against Hong Kong, advancing through to the semi-finals.

– Lauren Jackson will sadly have to sub out of Australia’s basketball world championships next month due to injuries. One of our biggest basketball players, Jackson is going to need hip surgery and further knee rehabilitation. She has already had four operations this year and has been unable to play a game since the very beginning of January. Wishing you a fast recovery, Lauren.

– Our Southern Stars have been battling Pakistan in their T20 matches on the Gold Coast – and they managed an 8-0 clean sweep of their four matches. Congratulations, girls!

– Just in the last few days, it’s been announced that national touch footy, netball and rugby representative, 18-year-old Tanisha Stanton, is set to join the Australian Rugby Union’s sevens squad. 29-year-old football star Lisa de Vanna has also signed back on to play with Melbourne Victory, and netball Firebird Clare McMeniman was selected to play with Diamonds’ for October’s netball test series, despite her retirement three years ago. Comeback time!

Have you seen anything in the sporting world that you’d like to talk about?

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