Thousands of social media users expressed their outrage after finding out that Marta, captain of the Brazilian women’s soccer team and top scorer in the history of the country, has an annual salary of US$400,000, whereas Barcelona’s male forward Neymar earns $14,500,000.
It did not take long for feminist activists to react with arguments related to equal pay, as many people said inequality between both players’ salaries was a result of alleged discrimination based on gender. They even suggested a law to ensure equal pay and working conditions would be a good step toward fairness and equity in the sport.
But does Neymar actually earn that extra Marta just for being a man? Is Marta a victim of a sexist system that does not allow her to earn as much money as she deserves for her soccer performance?
Both players represent the best of soccer, and should inspire thousands of young people who dream of standing out someday. Both grew up amid poverty and deprivation, which they escaped through pure hard work and talent.
Marta earns $400,000 a year thanks to the agreements she has with her sponsors, and the salary she receives for playing on a Swedish team.
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Some people claimed that Marta earns less because she is a woman. They do not consider, however, that she earns more than 99 percent of male players who play in the Brazilian soccer league. Marta does not earn less because she is a woman, as many assert. In fact, she receives a very attractive salary — higher than the average male soccer player.
So, why does Marta not earn the same as Neymar?
The answer has nothing to do with gender. But women’s soccer is a smaller business. Marta does not attract the same amount of public attention as Neymar, nor does she sell the same amount of t-shirts. While she plays in front of an average audience of 1,000 spectators per match, Neymar plays in front of 77,000 people.
This would seem to be society’s tendency to watch men’s sports over women’s.
Some may argue that the market is wrong. But if we understand the market as the sum of millions of individual decisions taken daily, it becomes more obvious that is a cultural, and this, a marketing issue more than a gender one.
If we we want Marta to earn the same as Neymar, then we need to develop products for which the market is willing to invest the same amount of money.