If you take a close look at the status of professional women’s sports in North America, it’s easy to assume only a small dent has been made in the overall sports landscape. And while it’s no secret male athletes are still getting extremely rich and attracting most, if not all the media attention – women are giving it everything they got to continue to make a name for themselves.
Like most things, it depends how you look at it. Are women’s sports seeing progress? Really, events in the past two years alone suggest we are getting close to the end of the beginning for professional women’s sports and moving into a significant growth period.
Women are demonstrating they don’t need men to run their sports. They can do it themselves. Women also don’t need men to start their leagues. Or referee their games. Or coach their teams. Or even own their teams.
Let’s take a closer look at the new era:
- The Premier Hockey Federation this week announced plans to double the salary cap for the 2023-24 season to $1.5 million (U.S.) per team. Players in the seven-team league could soon be looking at salaries of $75,000 or more.
- The 2022 World Cup in Qatar made history when an all-female squad officiated the Germany-Costa Rica match. Meanwhile, there are a record eight female referees in the NBA this season.
- Current Canadian women’s national soccer team captain Christine Sinclair and former national team member Diana Matheson earlier this month announced plans for an eight-team Canadian women’s pro soccer league.
- Five women, including former national team star Cassie Campbell-Pascal, were nominated this week to fill nine vacant positions on Hockey Canada’s board of directors after a scandal-plagued year. It would be the first-time women represented the majority on the board of the world’s leading hockey nation.
- Marie-Philip Poulin became the first female professional hockey player to be recognized as Canada’s athlete-of-the-year earlier this month when she won the Northern Star Award.
- Hayley Wickenheiser was promoted to assistant GM by the Maple Leafs in July, making her the fifth woman named to assistant GM by NHL teams in recent years.
- After six years of litigation, the U.S. women’s soccer team won its pay equity class action lawsuit in January against the U.S. Soccer Federation. The federation agreed to pay a lump sum of $22 million to the players and promised to provide an equal rate of pay between the men’s and women’s national senior teams.
- Team Canada hockey star Sarah Nurse made history this fall as the first women’s hockey player to appear on the cover of EA Sports NHL, joining Anaheim Ducks forward Trevor Zegras. The video game introduced women’s national team rosters for the first time in NHL ‘22.
- The WNBA had record television numbers during the 2022 season. The average salary in the league is now more than $71,000, and the WNBA has announced it is increasing its schedule to 40 games next year. The league has also announced it will play a 2023 pre-season game in Canada, and some are touting Toronto as a strong candidate for the league’s next expansion.
- Women are starting to assert themselves at ownership levels. Former Canadian women’s hockey superstar Angela James became a co-owner of the PHF’s Toronto Six earlier this year. Renee Montgomery, a two-time WNBA champion, is now part owner of the league’s Atlanta Dream and the team’s vice-president. She is also co-owner of Atlanta’s Indoor Football League team along with former NFL players Marshawn Lynch and Todd Gurley.
Today, we are witnessing almost daily the rapid expansion of opportunities for women to make a living through professional sports, both female and male. It’s clear women’s pro sports, and the influence of women in all sports – are both growth industries.