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Leveling the Financial Playing Field for Women in Sports

Most major professional sports do not offer equal pay for women athletes, perpetuating what’s always been an uneven playing field. The gender-based pay discrepancies extend not only to funding and media coverage but also to commercial partnerships and endorsements.
Women athletes carry substantial power and influence, well beyond their sport, which should result in more wealth for them – a sentiment supported by City National Bank and its parent company, Royal Bank of Canada (RBC).
“The growth in women’s sports is a movement, not just a moment,” says Todd Burach, SVP, team leader, Sports and Family Office Banking, at City National. “Viewership is up, attendance is up, brand spend is up, valuations are up, investment dollars from motivated parties are coming to the dance in record numbers. All of this is good news for women athletes and their ability to create generational wealth from their athletic pursuits.”
Burach and his team at City National provide financial solutions and personalized service to athletes, including many of the top names in women’s sports, as well as their families and their trusted advisers across the sports industry and multifamily office ecosystem.
Women athletes are 29% more inspirational and 27% more likely to be seen as a positive role model compared to their male counterparts, according to a study conducted by The Collective® at Wasserman, a trusted marketing partner to female talent, for whom it creates opportunities.
The same study found that male athletes earn 21 times more than women athletes. Athlete salary and endorsement income were sourced from proprietary financial data and publicly reported salary figures from the 2022 calendar year.
“Women have to work so much harder to actually find their dollars,” says Thayer Lavielle, executive VP of The Collective® at Wasserman. “More than 80% of their income comes off the field of play, off the court [from sponsorships and endorsements]. That’s an enormous amount. That’s a lot of work on women. They have to engage with fans more, they have to find them where they are. And many women athletes are naturals at this.”
As of late, fans have been searching for more content around their favorite women athletes amid limited broadcasting of league competitions and overall news coverage. Female stars have been connecting with their audiences and building communities by sharing personal stories and behind-the-scenes work on social platforms.
“While male athletes on average have much larger social followings, we found female athletes have higher engagement rates on social media,” says Luana Harris, managing director for RBC Sports Professionals at RBC Wealth Management. “Female athletes are moving that consumer dial.”
Harris, who forecasts and monitors the sports ecosystem, strongly advocated for collaborating with The Collective® to deliver powerful research about women’s sports to spotlight pay disparities with staggering statistics.
“We know [women athletes] should be paid more, but it’s not to just catch up with men,” Harris explains. “Having these numbers now and this research is just so crucial for brands and clients wanting to invest in women athletes.”
For all athletes, having the right team makes a great difference on and off the court. And for women athletes, having the right financial advisers is crucial. “We’re not here just for your playing careers — we’re here for life,” Harris says. “Any plans we make or programs we create, it’s with a lens of the unique nature of a professional athlete.”
City National understands that it is important for women athletes to establish a business mindset and financial game plan while still competing. “It’s just too late in our current environment to wait until you’re done with your playing career to start thinking about business beyond the game,” Harris says. “We help clients build financial plans that create longevity.”
By helping athletes learn about managing their finances, City National aims to help them prepare and plan for a future without tight budgetary constraints.
Life after sports is the reason why former athlete Dee Thompson founded Advise Sports and Entertainment. “I see financial literacy and strategic vision as one of the most powerful antidotes to the broke athlete phenomenon,” says Thompson, who has over 20 years of entrepreneurial experience.
Providing clients and their families with the right banking partner is one way Thompson helps them make better business choices.
“So many banks reserve top-tier service for their high-net-worth clients, which implies a sort of quid pro quo service model,” she shares. “City National Bank understands that each athlete has unique needs. This means meeting the client where they’re at financially, which is pivotal for women athletes. They take the time to understand off-court earnings when considering these athletes for home or business loans.”
City National also serves as a teammate to open doors for women athletes by investing in women’s sports teams. “For several seasons now, they’ve purchased courtside seats” in support of New York City’s professional women’s basketball team, Thompson says. “The way they use their seats is even more valuable than the financial investment. City National Bank invites business partners and stakeholders, introducing many of them to the women’s professional basketball league for the first time. This not only increases the fan base but helps expand the pool of potential investors in women’s sports.”
Now more than ever, there is money to be invested and money to be earned as indicated by sharp increases in attendance for multiple women’s sports and viewership surging to all-time highs across linear TV and streaming.
“The demand is out there and it’s loud,” Thompson says. “It’s willfully bad business not to invest in women’s sports [and women athletes].”

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