How much the first black South African woman to play at Wimbledon got in prize money

Kgothatso Montjane meets Meghan and Kate.
Kgothatso Montjane meets Meghan and Kate.

"What I love the most about tennis are the challenges within the sport, because they teach me how to survive in a real life situation. "

This year, 32-year-old Kgothatso Montjane from Limpopo made history and became the first-ever black South African woman to play at Wimbledon. She told W24 that, "I was introduced to tennis in 2005, and I kept playing since then and decided to focus on it as a career from 2011 to date." 

In her first ever go at the Wimbledon Championships, she got to the semi-final, where she eventually lost out to Diede de Groot from The Netherlands, who beat her in straight sets.

Asking her whether that was her fiercest match to date, she says "On competitors, I can’t single anyone out but give all to the top 10 players, cause it’s tough playing them all."

READ MORE: Markle wore an oversized Ralph Lauren shirt to Wimbledon - what it really means 

TotalSportEk notes that the winner of the Women's Singles title received a whopping £2.25m (R39 million) in prize money. Same as the men. Whereas the wheelchair winners (both men's and women's titles) received £40,000 (R700 773) respectively. 

For those, like Montjane, who reached the semis, she received £13,000 (R227 582). She says, "Prize money for the grand slam is always better than our actual wheelchair tournaments."  

We also asked her what it was like to meet Meghan Markle, she said "It was really an honour for me to meet Meghan because that’s a rare moment to be in the same space with royals." They met at the Women's Singles Final between Kerber and Williams. 

She will be playing the British Open next, starting on the 19th of July. 

There are some other amazing female athletes out there; think tennis player Serena Williams, gymnast Simone Biles and South Africa’s own sprinter Caster Semenya. 

But while these women do amazing work and are killing it in their respective fields, they’re still not being paid the same as their male counterparts. 

Forbes released their annual list of 100 highest paid sportspeople in the world for 2018 and there were no women on the list for the first time since 2010. Serena Williams was the only women to appear on the list in 2017. She was in 51st place with reported earnings of $27 million (R343 million), but she was missing from 2018’s list after taking time off tennis due to giving birth to her daughter, Alexis Olympia, in September 2017. 

READ MORE: 5 inspirational SA women who are changing the world as we know it

Forbes’ list is based on known earnings which include salaries, prize money and bonuses, plus endorsement estimates like sponsorship deals and appearance fees.

Forbes Africa did a list of the 25 highest paid athletes of all time. Not one of them was a woman. 

But these lists are not the only examples of a pay disparity in sports.

“There’s far more money and sponsorships in men’s football. Sponsors don’t come to women’s football."

Just recently the gender pay gap in sports was raised when the male and female under-18 winners at the Billabong Pro Junior Series in Ballito were paid differently even though they both did the same amount of work and effort to achieve their prize.

Rio Waida of Indonesia was paid R8 000, while South Africa’s Zoe Steyn took home literally half that with R4 000, according to HuffPost, even though they surfed the same course in the same conditions. 

READ MORE: 12 major award-winning actresses paid less than their male counterparts

Also, back in 2015, it was revealed by The South African Football Association (SAFA) that Banyana Banyana players earned between R2 000 and R5000 a game, while Bafana Bafana players earned R60 000 for a win and R30 000 for a draw. 

Cricket South Africa (CSA) told IOL that the Proteas women’s team players earned between R7 000 and R10 000 per test match, while the Proteas men’s team players earn R46 000 per test match and an additional R34 000 bonus for winning a test match.

So what can be done locally about this issue? We spoke to several sporting bodies and many of them give us mediocre responses. 

Mickey Modisane, spokesperson for the Department of Sports and Recreation said he could not comment on why female athletes are paid less than male athletes and referred us to the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC), Cricket South Africa and SAFA to get answers instead. 

" Big companies, like ones who make women’s products, they should come out and sponsor women’s sports in general, but they don’t. "

Jessica Choga, the communications officer for SASCOC, said to W24 in an email: “SASCOC's main mandate is team delivery to international and regional multi-coded high performance sporting events. When South African athletes win medals at international sporting events, SASCOC pays all athletes equally regardless of gender. This also applies to their financial needs in terms of preparation and training before any of their competitions. We also have different members who have their own autonomy so you may also contact them directly on this issue. However, we are not in a position to give opinion on why or how global or other countries pay their athletes.”

Cricket South Africa was approached for comment and promised to get back to us, but a comment had not been given by the time of publication. 

READ MORE: 3 young and successful SA women tell us how much money they earn and what they spend it on

But then we spoke to Fran Hilton-Smith, Head of Women’s Football at SAFA, who told us that the reason South African female football players don’t get paid as much as their male counterparts is because female football is still considered amateur and there is also a lack of sponsors. 

“There’s far more money and sponsorships in men’s football. Sponsors don’t come to women’s football. To be professional, we need more sponsors in women’s football, ” says Fran. She also says there are plans in place to start a semi-professional league for women in 2019. 

Fran says it’s not fair that women are not paid the same as men in sport. “We want women to be paid the same as men and in some countries like Finland and the USA they’ve managed to achieve this especially in football. So while we of course want women to be paid the same as men, you have to be realistic, if there isn’t a sponsor…”

We asked her why there aren’t more sponsors in women’s sport, but football especially and what can be done about the wage gap. “Companies don’t sponsor women’s football except for Sasol. So it makes it difficult to pay the women more. Big companies, like ones who make women’s products, they should come out and sponsor women’s sports in general, but they don’t. We’ve approached them, but it’s difficult,” says Fran. 

So it looks like it’s difficult for women to get ahead in sports due to lack of sponsors and support. Perhaps if average South Africans invested more time in female sport, there would be a greater urgency from companies to sponsor these teams and make sure they got some of the spotlight too. 

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