The issue of female athletes’ pay is front and center like never before.
After the U.S. women’s soccer team (and defending global champs) dominated once again in the recent World Cup, making their male counterparts look, shall we say, less impressive by comparison, the discussion heated up with people wondering why the women aren’t getting paid anywhere near the same amount.
The gender pay disparity is, of course, an ongoing and loaded topic in sports. Serena Williams was the only woman to make it onto Forbes’ 2019 ranking of the world’s 100 highest-paid athletes, slotting in at No. 63. That fact is less surprising than disappointing to many onlookers.
Still, there are bright spots to cheer about. We've compiled a list of the 10 richest female athletes right now, according to Forbes as well as other sources reporting information on earnings, endorsements, and estimated net worth. Here’s where they stand. (Spoiler: Tennis is a moneymaker.)
10. Sloane Stephens
How she makes her money: The Williams sisters tend to get most of the attention among American female tennis players, but Stephens is anything but a slouch. Just as her sponsorships were drying up, the 26-year-old phenom grabbed her first Grand Slam title (the 2017 U.S. Open), making her the first female American (whose last name isn't Williams) to win such a title since 2002. New deals flooded in, including major ones with Mercedes-Benz, Rolex, Colgate, Chocolate Milk, Biofreeze, and Nike. She’s partnered with the "Just Do It" brand to bring fresh Air Jordans to the court.
8. Ronda Rousey
How she makes her money: Though she’s retired from her record-breaking UFC career that ended in upsetting defeat, Rousey still has ubiquity on her side. She’s fifth among all female athletes in awareness, according to publicity agency The Marketing Arm’s ranking of the most marketable celebrities. She’s consistently been among the top 10 highest-earning female athletes, Forbes reports, raking in $14 million in 2016 alone, and she’s been known to pop up in major movies. Between previous deals and her current contract with WWE (her newest gig), the 32-year-old’s wealth remains healthy.
8. Garbiñe Muguruza
How she makes her money: It’s hard to outpace tennis stars in earnings among female athletes, and there’s one obvious reason: Unlike in other sports, women play alongside men and have equal pay in the Grand Slam tournaments (though it should be noted there is still a pay disparity, including in smaller competitions). The Spanish-Venezuelan Muguruza, 25, has reaped the rewards of this model, taking in an equal split of $5.5 million in prize money in 2018 after winning her second Slam at Wimbledon and $5.5 million in endorsements. Those brand checks came from Adidas, Rolex, and Beats by Dre, among others.
5. Simona Halep
How she makes her money: While her deal with Adidas ended at the end of 2017, the 27-year-old tennis champ Halep, who has been No. 1 among women in singles, can still count on plenty of coin. She just overcame Serena Williams to win the 2019 Wimbledon title, which will have major effects on her future earnings beyond the £2.35 million (nearly $3 million) prize money. She already inked a multiyear contract with Nike last year, and more corporate tie-ins are likely to pour in.
5. Angelique Kerber
How she makes her money: Three-time Grand Slam champion Kerber, 31, may have hit a rough period, parting ways with her coach after a disappointing performance at this year’s Wimbledon. But the German still won the same tournament only last year for a $2.83 million cash prize, and her bank statements are no doubt doing fine. She’s locked down endorsements with Adidas, Porsche, Rolex, and other luxury brands.
5. Caroline Wozniacki
How she makes her money: Former No. 1 in women’s singles Wozniacki can sleep well knowing she’s turned her ace tennis performance into brand awareness and major dollars. The 29-year-old Danish star has inked contracts with Adidas and Rolex and recently collaborated with Ovvo Optics to create her own sunglasses line.
4. Danica Patrick
How she makes her money: Patrick, one of only two non-tennis players on this list, comes behind only the Williams sisters in The Marketing Arm’s ranking of the most marketable female athletes, which notes her high trust level among the public. The 37-year-old queen of racing retired after last year’s Indianapolis 500, but she’s still cashing in on her legendary status with her own clothing line, Warrior by Danica Patrick, and her fitness book Pretty Intense. Her relationship with NFL star Aaron Rodgers ensures that she won’t be leaving the minds of sports fans anytime soon.
3. Venus Williams
How she makes her money: Sure, Serena takes a bit more of the spotlight in recent years, but make no mistake: Venus is a fearsome competitor on and off the court. While her women’s singles ranking has dipped (she’s currently No. 53), the elder Williams sister's marketing power is nearly unmatched: She’s No. 2 behind Serena in The Marketing Arm’s ranking of brand-friendly female athletes, with high points for aspiration. The 39-year-old veteran superstar is sitting on money from massive deals she’s made over her career, including a $40 million partnership with Reebok and ties with Tide, Electronic Arts, and Ralph Lauren. She also reportedly commands as much as $100,000 for a speaking engagement.
2. Maria Sharapova
How she makes her money: If you don’t follow tennis, the female player whose name you might recall outside of the Williams sisters is almost surely Sharapova’s. The 32-year-old, Russian-born five-time Grand Slam winner can still dominate on the court, earning $1 million in prize money just last year. More importantly, she keeps building an already extensive brand endorsement portfolio, recently adding a UBS deal to partnerships with behemoths like Nike, Porsche, and Evian.
1. Serena Williams
How she makes her money: Serena Williams’ place at the top ranking of female athletes is undeniable. And with good reason: She’s known and admired around the world for her Grand Slam accomplishments, with a 91% awareness rate that puts her among the top 1% of all celebrities, according to The Marketing Arm. That marketability has also brought the 37-year-old an extraordinary amount of wealth, even after she took an extended break to have a baby. She’s secured more than a dozen sponsorships including with Nike, Intel, Audemars Piguet, JPMorgan Chase, Lincoln, Gatorade, and Beats. That largely explains her No. 63 place among Forbes’ 2019 richest athletes list, with $4.2 million in salary or winnings and $25 million in endorsements. Her off-the-court savvy for real estate investments and other opportunities — like, say, hanging out with Beyoncé — certainly doesn’t hurt her either.