Gender Equality in Finance and Sports with Sheryl Swoopes

Written by

In a candid conversation, we sat down with none other than Sheryl Swoopes—a trailblazer in women’s sports and a fierce advocate for gender equality. This WNBA legend opens up about pivotal moments in her career, the evolving world of female athletes, and the enduring impact of gender inequality. She offers insights from her journey, advocacy, and vision for inspiring the next generation of female athletes—both on and off the court.

Starting from a young age yourself, why is it essential for girls to follow their passions?

FIRST OF ALL! It’s important for little girls to be able to make a living doing what they love because it’s simply the right thing to do. More than that though, to be forced into choosing something you are not passionate about or really love makes you feel unseen, unheard, or that what you want doesn’t matter.

What role did women mentors play in your life?

Women mentors have been very important in my life by not only telling me what I could accomplish and who I could be, but by showing me through their own lives.  I have always been confident in who I am as a person, but to have other women believe in you only builds that confidence. Professionally, being able to have someone like LaChina Robinson believe in me and help me get my foot in the door with ESPN [even when I wasn’t so sure] meant a lot to me.  Personally, being able to connect on a weekly basis with a few close friends and talk about life has been one of the single most impactful things I have felt. Being able to build strong sisterhoods is very important.

How have you felt the impact of gender inequality in your professional journey?

As a collegiate athlete at Texas Tech, we were treated just as good as the men’s team if not better after winning the National Championship. In the WNBA with the Houston Comets, we had a great owner in Les Alexander who took very good care of us. However, there were issues back then that we fought for as a group that we are still fighting for bigger salaries and chartered flights being the two biggest. Today, as a retired player, we are fighting to have healthcare benefits and a pension plan just like our male counterparts. I think it is always important to use your voice to bring awareness to issues.  However, I also believe in controlling what you can control. Meaning, we can’t control how much we are being paid, but we can talk about it and keep being great at what we do because at some point that will make a difference.

What advice would you give to young women in similar situations today?

Planning for your future is so important!  My message to young women is start planning today for the rest of your life.  There are so many things that could impact what your future will look like when it comes to money. Oftentimes I think about how much I didn’t know about financial planning and the importance of saving when I was playing.  One of the single most important things I learned was the importance of budgeting and being disciplined enough to stick with that budget. Having conversations about money and wealth can be a tough but it is a very important conversation that needs to be had in order for you to understand what you want your future to look like financially.  I also would say not to be too prideful and ask for help in this area if it is not something you are very good at.

Budget Your Future

What is the real human impact of mothers worried about money?

We as women wear so many different hats, the last thing we want to worry about is whether we are secure financially. When mothers have to worry about money problems it causes so many other issues. As a mother, the most important thing to me is my son’s well being.  Having to worry about money and the ability to care for your child is a very scary and stressful thing to have to go through. It can cause depression, anxiety, loneliness and so many other feelings and emotions. It can also be hard on the child(ren) because they see the stress that it is causing the mom.

Try Our Budgeting Tool

What role did the WNBA sisterhood play in addressing gender inequality and financial challenges?

The WNBA sisterhood is like no other. These 144 women have single-handedly become one of the most powerful voices in all of sport. Being able to use your voice(s) and speak up regarding things that need to be better for women is so inspirational and powerful. Conversations of chartered flights versus commercial continue to be had and I believe will soon be a real thing for the W. Other changes that have been made like player salaries, rooming situations (players having their own rooms instead of sharing rooms in hotels), fully paid maternity leave for the players and parents playing in the league receiving a child care stipend and housing assistance. Being role models and idols for people to look up to isn’t just about what you do on the court, it’s also about what you do in life.  The women of the W represent so many other things. These are just a few of the changes these women have made happen but they continue to fight and use their voices to keep moving the needle forward.

This past year, we saw a 21% increase in WNBA viewership. What’s driving this refreshed interest?

The time is now to be a part of women’s sports! No longer are people embarrassed or ashamed to say I watch the WNBA.  It has become the “cool” thing to do.  I think there are several factors in viewership increase. First, people are finally realizing that the talent in the league is REALLY good and the games are great to watch.  Anytime you have NBA players or male athletes support and watch and talk about the game, people get intrigued and want to tune in. Access to watch the games is so much better and easier to find. The energy and excitement in NCAA WBB was at an all time high last year and continues to grow and thrive. South Carolina, Angel Reese, Caitlin Clark—the hype and excitement that came anytime these 3 were playing was insane!  Not only did fans of theirs tuned in, people couldn’t get enough of them. Last year’s Final Four was a big reason why the W viewership was up because fans wanted to be able to follow their favorite collegiate player and see what she would do at the next level.  

What are some of the hardships being experienced by other retired WNBA players?

Being a retired WNBA player can be challenging. As with any career, the transition from being a pro athlete to your next profession can be scary. One of the biggest challenges we face is healthcare. Because the W doesn’t have a pension plan or healthcare for retired players, a lot of players struggle to find their way after retirement. Lack of opportunity for former players to be involved with the league in some capacity is also an issue. There are some players who are just simply struggling to figure out what to do next!

On a recent episode of Apple News, you discussed frustration around “female” athlete versus just “athlete”. What do you think fans “don’t get”?

There is no doubt there is a difference between being a female and a male. But to me, when it comes to talking about athletes, it should be just that.  ATHLETE. I don’t understand why there has to be a distinction between male athlete and female athlete. When we refer to other occupations, like bartender, teacher, and others, we don’t say female teacher or female bartender. The point being, if you are an athlete, we shouldn’t have to be labeled as female either. I don’t think fans realize how being called a “good female athlete” instead of just an athlete makes us feel less than or not appreciated for our talents.

Where do you see women’s sports in 5 years?

I believe that in 5 years women’s basketball will be at a place we have only dreamt of.  Meaning visibility, opportunity, salaries, respect!  We will be in a place to really make a difference in the world, not just on the court or the field. We will be the hottest and toughest ticket to buy!  When I look at where the game is today and the talent of players like Juju Watkins, Hannah Hidalgo, Caitlin Clark, Angel Reese, A’ja Wilson and so many others, there is NO question we are headed in the right direction!

Sheryl Swoopes’ insights serve as a reminder of the ongoing battle for gender equality. Her resilience and unwavering commitment to empowerment are a source of inspiration for us all, financially and beyond. MoneyLion continues to champion this message—supporting efforts to create a world where financial success for everyone isn’t just a dream, but a reality. Download the MoneyLion app to start building your ideal future today.

Sign Up
Sign Up

Fast, interest-free advances anytime

Get Instacash advances up to $500 for everyday expenses or life’s surprises. There’s no credit check, no monthly fee, and no interest.

Sign Up