Best Life: Young women fighting gender gap in sports

Updated: Feb. 1, 2021 at 7:47 AM CST
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MIAMI, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – The gender pay gap exists in all careers, including in sports. Male athletes in basketball, golf, soccer, baseball, and tennis made anywhere from 15 percent to 100 percent more than female athletes. In 2019, soccer star Lionel Messi made 127 million dollars, while tennis superstar Serena Williams made 29 million, and that’s a big difference!

Now one young woman is working to change that. She’s a mentor with a message and is working to change how women, from grade school to the pros are treated on the playing field.

Nina Paneque learned early on that being the only girl on the court doesn’t make you popular. “Sometimes a lot of the guys didn’t necessarily want me on their team,” said Paneque, creator of Because She Can. That made her question how other female athletes dealt with gender discrimination and the pay gap. “A lot of WNBA players don’t even make as much as referees in the NBA,” added Paneque.

She started interviewing women in sports. “As a junior, I had this body of interviews and I felt like, okay, I kind of want to get this message out,” said Paneque. That led to “Because She Can.” A blog that grew into a digital magazine. “I would reach out to Olympians, WNBA All-Stars, and they were always so willing to speak with me,” said Paneque.

The website inspired Johnson and Johnson to create a retail campaign for the FIFA Women’s World Cup called “Because She Can!” “I think especially youth athletes need more female mentors,” said Malena Benitez, a Female Athlete & Nina’s Best Friend. Mentors like Nina whose passion for fighting gender inequality in sports has her Harvard bound! “We get into debates, we talk about it, she’s very spirited about the things she truly believes in,” said Benitez.

Nina tells young girls to believe in yourself and not let anyone deter you from your dreams! “Until we kind of change the culture and realize that female athletes are just as deserving of an equal pay or just as deserving of publicity and media as male athletes, I think until we really make that ideal well known there is some work to be done,” said Paneque.

And it doesn’t stop with the athletes. Even female coaches aren’t being paid anywhere close to the heads of the men’s teams. According to Equity in Athletics Data Analysis, when you look at the salaries of the men’s basketball coaches in the 2018 Big Ten Conference, it’s an average of $864,000 compared to a woman’s average of $221,000. Nina is also a 2020 Silver Knight Award winner and plans to pursue a career in journalism. To learn more about it because she can go to or follow “Because She Can” on Instagram.

Contributor(s) to this news report include: Janna Ross, Producer; Judy Reich, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

Copyright 2021 WMC. All rights reserved.