It is pretty common knowledge that athletes make a lot of money. It is also not a surprise that, as in most fields, women don’t make as much as men. Society in general is still pretty tied to the notion that, for some reason, women don’t need as much money as men. Traditionally, men were the providers for their families and had to make the money that was necessary to purchase homes, vehicles, food and clothing for their loved ones. However, some of these female athletes aren’t married. So does that mean they deserve less money? Also, some of these female sports stars have children. Do people expect them to care for their families with less money than they’d make if they were men?
I digress. The point is that there are some women in athletics who are making tons of money for being great at what they do. Some of these women have been trailblazers in their sport, and have inspired countless young girls to be bold and fearless in their athletic pursuits. We can get back to the wage disparity a little later, but for now, let’s focus on the 11 female athletes who make the most cash.
11. Ronda Rousey ($2 million)
Ronda Rousey is a mixed martial artist who has been honing her craft since she started judo as a kid. She’s also got fighting in her blood, since Rousey’s mom was the first American woman to be a World Judo Champion. In 2004, Ronda qualified for the Olympic Games in Athens; she was 17 at the time. She then went on to become the first athlete from the U.S. to win two Junior World medals. Ronda is also the first American to win an Olympic medal in Judo. She earned the title when she took home the Bronze at the Olympics in Beijing in 2008. Two years later, she started fighting on the mixed martial arts circuit. Ronda Rousey is known for defeating all her opponents with the armbar, her signature move. She learned it from her mom, who used to wake her up every morning by using the armbar move on her. How sweet.
10. Ana Ivanovic ($7 million)
Ana Ivanovic was born in Serbia, but now lives in Switzerland. Even though her entire family are sports enthusiasts, none of her relatives started playing tennis until she did. Ivanovic was just five years old when she took up the sport, and became inspired after watching Monica Seles play on TV. She remembered the number for a tennis school near her neighborhood and begged her parents to enroll her. For her fifth birthday, she was presented with a tennis racquet. Ana loves playing on all surfaces. Sometimes, to prepare for her tennis matches, she plays Sodoku in her locker room. She also has a superstition associated with her games, and doesn’t walk on the lines of the tennis court to improve her chances of winning.
9. Caroline Wozniacki ($12 million)
Danish tennis player Caroline Wozniacki is the first woman from Denmark to earn a top ranking in the sport. She was the WTA’s Newcomer of the Year in 2008, and went to her first major final at the U.S. Open in 2009. Wozniacki comes from an athletic family; her mom was a volleyball player and her dad was a soccer player. Her older brother also plays soccer. Caroline’s father has also coached her, and she counts tennis players such as Steffi Graf and Martina Hingis as her athletic inspirations. Wozniacki was also romantically linked to Rory McIlroy, but the two called off their engagement in 2014.
8. Agnieszka Radwanska ($14.7 million)
Agnieszka Radwanska is a singles tennis player from Poland. She started playing the sport when she was just four years old. Radwanska is currently coached by Tomasz Wiktorowski, but also receives coaching from her dad, Robert, who introduced her to tennis when she was a little girl. She began developing a love for tennis at a country club in Germany, where her father served as a club pro. Her sister Urszula, is also a tennis player. Agnieszka is also studying tourism at Polish Sport University. She has goals of winning a Grand Slam and becoming number one in her sport.
7. Victoria Azarenka ($15 million)
Victoria Azarenka is an Olympic gold medalist, and the first woman from Belarus to win a Grand Slam singles title. Azarenka started learning how to play tennis when she was seven years old, and entered her first professional competition in 2003. She started playing the sport when her mother was working at a tennis club, and gave her a tennis racquet to keep her occupied. In 2012, at the Australian Open, Victoria earned her first Grand Slam title. She then went on to the Summer Olympics, where she won a gold medal in mixed doubles. She won the Australian Open again the following year.
6. Li Na ($15 million)
Li Na is one of the most popular athletes in China. She was the first Asian tennis player to win a tournament in the Grand Slam, when she dominated the 2011 French Open. Na also won the Australian Open in 2014, and then came back to Melbourne Park in January to announce that she and her husband were expecting a baby. Li had several knee injuries as a result of playing tennis, and this was cited as the reason for her retirement from the sport. Li Na and her husband Dennis, welcomed a baby girl named Alisa in 2015.
5. Danica Patrick ($18 million)
Danica Patrick has long been one of the hottest professional racers. She’s been a real trailblazer in professional racing for women, and was the first woman to lead the Indy 500. She was the fourth woman to race in the Indy 500, and when she placed fourth, it was the highest position a woman had ever placed in the race. Patrick was also the first woman to win the Daytona 500 pole position. Danica is a native of Wisconsin and fell in love with racing as a kid. She even dropped out of high school so she could race professionally. She went to England to compete and won second place at the Formula Ford Festival, becoming the first woman and first American to finish so well in the event.
4. Kim Yu-Na ($21 million)
Kim Yuna is a South Korean figure skater who started skating at the age of six. In 2002, she had her first international competition and won the Triglay Trophy at the novice level in Slovenia. Yuna earned her first South Korean National title the following year. In 2004, Kim entered the Junior Grand Prix circuit and won the gold medal at the Junior Grand Prix in Hungary. Just one year later, she got first place at the Junior Grand Prix competitions in Bulgaria, Slovenia and the Czech Republic. During her last season competing at the junior level, in 2006, she won the gold medal as well. When Yuna moved to the senior level in 2006-2007, she took the overall title at the Grand Prix Finals. Kim also took home South Korea’s first senior level world figure skating title in 2009.
3. Venus Williams ($75 million)
Venus Williams and her sister Serena, have been taking the tennis world by storm for quite some time. The two started playing the sport as elementary school kids, and often play against each other professionally. Venus and Serena have also won several titles when they play together in doubles competitions. Venus came from a rough upbringing in Compton, and through her determination, she became a four-time Olympic gold medalist. She went professional in 1994, and her father, who was a former sharecropper, used the information he’d attained in tennis videos and books to coach his daughter. By the time she was just 10 years old, Venus’ serve was faster than 100 miles per hour.
2. Serena Williams ($145 million)
Serena Williams has been in the news quite a lot these days for her perfectly toned body (which some think looks too “manly”) and her romantic relationships (it is believed that she and rapper Drake are dating each other). However, Serena’s real reason for being in the public eye is the fact that she’s a phenomenal tennis player. Serena Williams started playing tennis with her older sister Venus, in California, and the two have become some of the greatest tennis athletes in the world. Serena has won more than 20 Grand Slam titles, as well as several gold medals. When she achieved her 2015 victory at Wimbledon, she became the oldest singles Grand Slam Champion in the Open era at the age of 33.
1. Maria Sharapova ($195 million)
Maria Sharapova won the French Open in 2012 and 2014, which resulted in a Career Grand Slam for her. She is the sixth female tennis player to accomplish this impressive feat. Maria started playing tennis as a young child, and when she was nine years old, she traveled with her father to Florida for tennis camp. Sharapova became a professional player at the age of 14. She also has an endorsement deal with Nike, which is the highest paying advertisement deal in women’s tennis. In 2011, her Maria Sharapova Collection, which is produced by Cole Haan and includes accessories and shoes, doubled in profits in 2011. In 2012, the tennis star won the silver medal in women’s singles at the Summer Olympics.