[Serena Williams: Rex Features]
Wimbeldon may be over, but we shouldn't forget its legacy. No not just Pimms, strawberries and a marathon final between Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer ..but also small but important victories for feminism too. Because while there’s admittedly something weird about a sport that dictates what colour knickers a professional athlete can wear under her skirt, tennis has something to teach every working woman. And it’s not about what the Williams sisters wear but what they earn.
Equal pay is still shockingly rare in sport. Casey Stoney, the England women’s football captain, pockets less in a year than the men’s captain does in a day. Our women’s national cricket team negotiated a pay rise for winning the Ashes but they still only get the rate for a male junior county player. But tennis isn’t like that. The winner of the Wimbledon women’s finals this month gets exactly the same cheque as the winner of the men’s. And that didn’t happen by accident.
Female tennis players are fairly paid partly because they bring in the big audiences that sponsors love. But it's also because they’ve fought long and hard for their share.
Take Billie Jean King, who in 1973 took on and beat the male former world number one, Bobby Riggs, over five sets after he repeatedly sniped that women players weren’t as good as men. Or Martina Navratilova and Monica Seles, who braved public mockery in the 1990s to argue that female players deserved equal pay because their matches were just as exciting as the men’s. Or the then Labour women's minister, Patricia Hewitt, who back in 2002 first demanded to know why female Wimbledon winners got £39,000 less prize money than the men. So many women kicked off for so long that, seven years ago, Wimbledon was finally embarrassed into coughing up equal prizes. Moral of the story? It’s no good sitting around hoping the pay gap closes itself; and it helps if it’s blindingly obvious, as it was every year the Wimbledon women lifted their trophies, exactly what’s going on.
And that’s where you come in. Here at Grazia we reckon that if bosses had to publish an anonymised breakdown of what they pay male and female staff every year, it would become obvious pretty fast who wasn’t playing fair. Four years ago, parliament actually passed a law requiring large firms to do just that, but it still hasn’t been brought into force. We think it should be. And if you do too, then sign our equal pay petition. Because if 100,000 people sign, then it’s not just a case of sticking your name on something: if 100,000 sign, it automatically triggers a debate about this in parliament. Politicians would have to answer to YOU on the pay gap. And that’s one small but important step to all of us getting what we’re worth.
To sign our e-petition log on to: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/66032