MONTREAL (Reuters) - Sport and society remain stuck in the “stone age” when it comes to women’s rights, Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton said on Thursday.
Hamilton, who was 12th on the Forbes annual list of the world’s highest paid athletes released this week, was asked his thoughts on the total absence of women in the top 100.
The Briton shrugged off the question at first, absolving Formula One of having anything to do with the glaring omission, due to there being no women drivers in F1.
Yet Hamilton was quick to say that women, in sport or business, should earn equal pay for equal work and questioned the absence of tennis player Serena Williams from the Forbes list.
“Well there are no women drivers so I don’t see how Formula One has anything to do with it,” said Hamilton, who earned $51 million last year according to Forbes. “But that just shows you how behind we are in the world.
“There is no reason women should not be able to earn what men are able to earn.
“Serena is in the top three of the greatest athletes of all-time above a lot, if not all, that are on that list so it is big, big question, why?
“Women rule the world. I don’t understand.
“It just shows you we are still in the stone age. That needs to change.”
Williams, a 23-times Grand Slam singles champion, had been ranked 51st on last year’s Forbes list, but dropped out of the top 100 after taking time away from the sport to have her first child.
Tennis, and the Grand Slams in particular, have taken strides by offering equal prize money to men and women, but many other sports have not come close to keeping pace when it comes to pay and diversity.
“Serena has already spoken of how difficult it is,” said Hamilton, who will be bidding to match Michael Schumacher’s record of seven Canadian Grand Prix wins this weekend. “It is going to take some time to change it.”
Formula One has not had a woman driver on the starting grid since 1976. The most recent woman to compete in Formula E was Swiss racer Simona de Silvestro in 2016.
Susie Wolff, who in 2014 became the first woman driver in 22 years to take part in a Formula One Grand Prix weekend, when she drove in Friday practice at Silverstone for Williams, has retired.
So has Danica Patrick, the only woman to win an IndyCar race and start from pole at the Daytona 500. She left the sport last month with no promising successor waiting in the wings.
Editing by Toby Davis