The Reason Why Only 1 Woman Made It on Forbes 100 Highest Paid Athletes List

Photo: The New Yorker

We all know the unfair statistics when it comes to the wage gap between women and men (women make about 80% of a man’s salary when in the same position and field) and this issue has never been more evident than with the 2017 release of Forbes 100 Highest Paid Athletes.

Out of the top 100 athletes in the world, there is only 1… yes you read right ONE woman who made the list, tennis superstar Ms. Serena Williams and she landed at #51. The soon to be mother won her 23rd Grand Slam this past January and earned $27 million dollars in 2016. Although 27 million dollars is no small feat, when compared to tennis star Roger Federer who made almost 2.5 times as much money as Williams with $64 million last year there is clearly a gap in monetary compensation between women and men athletes.

Serena Williams is easily recognized as one of the greatest athletes of all time. She has been recognized as one of the faces of tennis and the reason for the recent surge in popularity of the sport of tennis in the past few years, yet she has one of the lowest salaries of the entire Forbes list with only over $8 million in salary and winnings over the last year.

Her endorsement deals more than double her actual salary at $19 million but still pale in comparison to endorsement deals of her athletic counterparts. Take for example Lebron James who scored $90 million dollar over the course of 7 years with his Nike endorsement deal alone. For a long time the idea of athleticism, power and strength was only seen in male athletes by big name businesses looking to capitalize but the tide has slowly started to turn.

Serena Williams Promotion for Gatorade

Lebron James Promotion for Nike

Thanks to a shift of marketing to millennials who make up 70-80% of consumer purchases especially in the recent booming women’s active wear market, big corporations are learning that women connect with authentic stories – stories told by female athletes. Super athletes like U.S. soccer player Alex Morgan, American Ballet Theatre principal dancer Misty Copeland and others are starting to make a crack in this male dominated money pool, but with Serena Williams being the only female athlete in the top 100 there is still much more work to be done.

Hopefully the “Be Like Mike” Gatorade campaign that became a household phrase back in 1991 for us will now and for our future generations include “Be Like Serena” and pave the way for whatever other great and deserving female athletes there are to come, both in representation and pay.



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