Gender (in)equality in elite sport: an international analysis of the gender earnings gap among elite athletes and coaches

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingMeeting abstract (Book)


This research aims to develop more knowledge in the gender earnings differences in elite sports. We compare the total income data but also the four income categories: direct payments, reimbursements, sponsorships and prize money. The research questions are twofold: (1) What is the gender earnings gap between male and female athletes and coaches? (2) Is the gender gap related to the country, athlete’s performance level and the type of sport performed?
Since the 1970s, gender pay differences have been studied extensively. Wicker et al. (2021) showed that a significant earnings gap still exists among elite athletes in Germany. There is a gap in knowledge concerning the earning difference according to country, sport and athlete’s level. This study aims to fill this gap.
Our results showed no significant gender difference in the total income of all athletes (n=3142). We found, however, significant differences in the direct payments (higher for men, +34%) and the reimbursements (higher for women, +40%).When including the level of athletes, the gender difference in direct payments exists in both top 16 and lower-level athletes. When comparing the 38 Olympic sports, there is an inequality in to-tal income in five sports: athletics, equestrian sports, ice hockey, shooting and triathlon. Except for triathlon, in the four other sports, men gained a significantly higher income than women. When comparing the 13 countries, a gender pay gap in total income only existed in Estonia: there is a significantly higher total income for men.
The coaches survey showed that 84% of our coaches were men, and only 16% were female. The mean gross annual income for women (28621 international dollars PPP1) was only 48% of the men’s mean income (60104 PPP). Due to the unequal sample size this was not statistically sig-nificant.
The results show there remains a gender inequality in direct payments in elite sports. Our re-sults lead to a call to action to achieve equity, especially in the mentioned countries and sports.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFISU World Conference
Subtitle of host publication30th Winter Universiade Lucerne 2021 Switzerland
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2021
EventFISU World Conference: 30th Winter Universiade Lucerne 2021 Switzerland -
Duration: 13 Dec 202114 Dec 2021


ConferenceFISU World Conference


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