Missing From the New Forbes List: Women

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The Forbes magazine list of the world’s 100 highest paid athletes of 2018 was recently announced, and none of them was a woman, even knocking off tennis champion Serena Williams.

The highest paid athlete of 2018 was boxer Floyd Mayweather, due to his $275 million paycheck for a fight against UFC star Conor McGregor last August. Mayweather brought in a total of $285 million, taking the number one spot for the fourth time in seven years. The top ten includes:

  • Lionel Messi ($111 million)
  • Christiano Ronaldo ($108 million)
  • Conor McGregor ($99 million)
  • Neymar da Silva Santos ($90 million)
  • Lebron James ($85.5 million)
  • Roger Federer ($77.2 million)
  • Stephen Curry ($76.9 million)
  • Matt Ryan ($67.3 million)
  • Matthew Stafford ($59.5 million)

Last year tennis star Serena Williams was the only woman on the Forbes Highest Paid Athletes list. As number 51 out of 100, Williams earned $27 million in 2017. According to Forbes, Williams dropped to $18 million, mostly due to taking the year off to give birth to her daughter Alexis Olympia with husband Alexis Ohanian. Williams is still supported by sponsors such as Nike, Gatorade, and JP Morgan Chase.

While Williams’s spot on the list was impacted by her pregnancy, it did not affect the ranking of any of the men who also fathered children during the same period. Williams famously competed and won the 2017 Australian Open while eight weeks pregnant. Others include Kerri Walsh Jennings, who won gold at the 2012 Olympics while 5 weeks pregnant.

Reactions on Twitter did attribute to the lack of interest and economic demand for female sports. However, many were quick to point out the disparity in attention to women sports. Women sports are disproportionately broadcasted compared to male sports.


Tennis star and gender equality advocate Billie Jean King tweeted in response to the release to Forbes List. King gained worldwide attention for her victory in the “Battle of the Sexes” against Bobby Riggs in 1973.

Male sports receive more attention, therefore making more money and able to pay its players more. Due to the enormous popularity of the National Basketball Association (NBA), its players are paid 50 percent of all revenue. However, the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) sells fewer tickets, less paraphernalia, and is less likely to even be broadcast. Female players receive less than 25 percent of all revenue according to Forbes. Nneka Ogwumike, basketball player for the Los Angeles Sparks, admitted in an interview with Jessica Dickler at CNBC that many of her teammates work other jobs in addition to being professional basketball players.


While the WNBA has seen a recent increase in ratings, particularly during the 2017 finals, the NBA still dominates professional basketball in the United States. However, some female athletes are fighting the gender wage gap in sports. In 2017, the U.S. Women’s National team negotiated a new agreement with improved and equal financial support to the U.S. Men National team. According to the ESPNW website, five-star players of the U.S. Women’s National Team complained to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Becky Sauerbrunn, Hope Solo, and Megan Rapinoe all accused U.S. soccer of wage discrimination.



While the recent Forbes does show the discrepancy in income between male and female athletes, it is the difference in the attention given to female sports that still plays a role in income for athletes. The 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final was the most watched soccer match in American history with nearly 23 million, yet the winners, U.S. women’s team, were paid less than the men’s team who lost the World Cup. Furthermore, the U.S. men’s team was in 11th place in 2014 and took home $9 million. While the U.S. women’s team earned $2 million for winning in 2015. FIFA’s secretary general, in 2014 said, “We are still another 23 World Cups [away] before potentially women receive the same amount as men.”



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