Lindsey Vonn seems to think there is some nuance missing in the conversation around the gender pay gap, at least when it comes to sports.
During the Tory Burch Foundation’s first Embrace Ambition Summit, the Olympic alpine skier told ABC’s Deborah Roberts that male and female professional athletes shouldn’t all necessarily be paid the same as a rule, because “[sports] is a business.”
“If someone’s playing five hours and someone else is playing three or the stadiums aren’t full, then [it shouldn’t be the same],” Vonn said.
But that’s not to say that Vonn isn’t in full support of women being given the opportunity and the tools to compete on a level playing field with men, literally or figuratively. While men and women in her sport have less of a pay gap than others, Vonn said a bigger issue for her is the perception that women simply “aren’t as good” as men.
“A lot of the time, I hear comments, especially from European men, that women are just sideslipping the course, like we’re preparing the course so the men can come out and ski, and also we’re called ‘the pony show’ — you know, because the real race is up next,” Vonn said. “It’s disappointing to hear, but all I can do is my best and try to get those people to put their foot in their own mouth and show them how women can ski.”
Ibtihaj Muhammad, an Olympic fencer who became the first American Olympic athlete to wear a Hijab during competition, has plenty of her own experiences with “male bravado,” as she put it. Save for her sister, all of Muhammad’s fencing partners in training are men, even though the sport is not coed and she’s only worked with male coaches.
“Within fencing, we face some similar issues, because it’s like we’re all waiting to see the men compete,” Muhammad said. “As women, we’re always trying to prove ourselves, even at practice. So, a lot of that comes with showing them how strong we can be and then that’s it’s OK to lose to a girl.”