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Book Chapter

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In 1891, James Naismith invented the game of basketball at Springfield College to find something for male students at the school to do during the New England winter. The next year Senda Berenson organized the first women’s basketball game with slightly different rules 25 miles away at Smith College (Hult & Trekell, 1991). By 1900, the game had spread to colleges, high schools, and amateur clubs across the country (Emery & Toohey-Costa, 1991). Although both men and women have essentially played this game since its introduction, the men's game has generally received a much greater share of attention and funding. For example, men's basketball became an Olympic sport in 1936 but it took another 40 years for women to compete in basketball in the Olympics. In terms of professional opportunities, the NBA began in 1946, though it was not until 1997 that the WNBA began play. This chapter will undertake a comparison of pay in women’s basketball with an emphasis on its inception in North America which was rooted in gendered ideologies of the early 20th century. The historical content of both men’s and women’s leagues is critical in discussing pay disparities because each league is a different age. By comparing the leagues at the same period in their life cycles we show that women are underpaid even after accounting for the age of the league. We find the same result when comparing wages to other North American sports and women's leagues in Europe.