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Equal winnings on a silver platter

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KAI RYSSDAL: When Amelie Mauresmo collected her winners check at Wimbledon last year, it was about $53,000 lighter than Roger Federer’s. Put another way, the woman’s champion got almost 5 percent less than the men’s winner did.

The world’s oldest tennis tournament has awarded smaller prizes to women for all of its 123 years. But no more. Marketplace’s Amy Scott now on the changing times at the All England Club.

AMY SCOTT: Just last year, Wimbledon defended the gap between men’s and women’s prizes by saying the men did more work. To win a match, men have to win 3 sets out of 5. Women, just 2 out of 3.

But the U.S. and Australian Opens have awarded equal prizes between the sexes for years. Bloomberg news reports that for the last six years, more U.S. viewers have tuned in to watch the women’s final than the men’s. And the All England Club decided its policy no longer made business sense.

Donna Lopiano is CEO of the Women’s Sports Foundation. She says in golf, men and women play in separate tournaments that air on different networks and draw different crowds and advertisers. So it’s easier to justify different pay.

DONNA LOPIANO: Whenever men and women compete together in the same event, there’s no way you should be trying to separate these markets.

Lopiano says Wimbledon’s move sets the bar for other sports.

But sports journalist Diana Nyad says tennis is unique. Even if the ball moves a little more slowly during a women’s match, the play is just as exciting.

DIANA NYAD: You know the strokes can be as beautiful, the drop shots just as feathered. It is quite an evenly entertaining and fair competition.

Other sports are addressing the women’s pay gap on their own. Two years ago, the New York City Marathon awarded the female champion $30,000 more than her male counterpart.

In New York, I’m Amy Scott for Marketplace.

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