The U.S Women’s National Team is a rather impressive group of ladies in both their fight on the field and their fight for pay equality. Five of the key players recently came forward about the astonishing gap in their wages as compared to the men’s team. I say astonishing, but in all honesty, it really isn’t.
The struggle for equal wages isn’t new for these women. In fact, it came under fire for the first time back in 1996. That year, the U.S. federation promised the men’s team a bonus for every game they won in the Olympics. The women were told that they would only receive a bonus if they won gold. Problems such as this have not ceased, but have merely gone unrecognized. Thanks to Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe, and Becky Sauerbrunn’s latest lawsuit, this disgrace is finally receiving major media attention.
“There are no legitimate non-discriminatory reasons for this gross disparity of wages, nor can it be explained away by any bona fide seniority, merit or incentive system or any other factor than sex,” the EEOC complaint says. And it’s true. The most-watched soccer game in history on a U.S. network was the 2015 women’s World Cup final. Even more Americans watched that game than the NBA Finals. Thanks to this outstanding victory and the triumphant tour that followed, the USSF received a $20 million increase in revenue in 2015. It is expected that the women will once more bring in more revenue than the men both this year and next year.
The women are more successful on the field and bring in more revenue than the men, yet Abby Wambach was paid only a fraction of what Clint Dempsey made after he lost in the first round. And she won the gold medal! These female players are only making between 40% and 72% of their male counterparts. Even more of a gap than the national average of 79 cents to a man’s dollar. They receive approximately $99,000 for winning 20 exhibition games while the men receive $263,320 for the same number of wins.
So wild is the favor of the men’s team, that in 2015 the men earned $9 million for merely making it to the round of 16 in their World Cup attempt. That same year, the women won the World Cup and made a pathetic $2 million. Try to tell me that that’s not utterly ridiculous. I just won’t believe you. After the ladies have won three world cups to the men’s zero, you would think that the USSF would have evened out the wages just a bit. Unfortunately, that hasn’t seem to have occurred to them.
Based on their excellence in bringing in income for the USSF and their excellence in regards to wins, one could even argue that the women’s team should be making more than the men. I can feel the gasp of shock one might emit when reading that. Sounds absurd, right? But, the reverse happens everyday. When reading about the wage gap in regards to women, there is no shock. It is either expected, mocked, or dismissed as a fantasy. The idea of a pay gap being forced upon men is outrageous, so why is the current pay gap disenfranchising women not?
This is more than just an issue of pay, it’s an issue of respect. How can a team be respected when some of it’s members are being payed up to 60% less than others doing the same thing, with far less success? The USSF clearly does not have respect for their female players. This is evident in their wages, specifically in that this problem is still occurring over 50 years after the Equal Pay Act of 1963. Women are told that they are being fairly compensated because there is a law saying they must be, but looking at just this one instance of many shows just how blatant the discrimination is. Employees who happen to be women aren’t held in as high of esteem, be they soccer players or accountants. We deserve respect and our wages our a simple way to show whether or not we have received it.
This problem doesn’t only impact these players, but women across the world. Seeing this team of powerful ladies stand up for themselves is life-changing. They’re aggressive on the field and relentless in court. They will not stop until the sexism they face is recognized. Little girls starting to drop out of their soccer teams because they’re taught that they are too delicate, too likely to get dirty, or too weak to play a ‘boy’s game’ will see that these are lies. If the women that they look up to are triumphant, they can even be soccer players compensated fairly for their success. And if we continue to empower our young women and encourage them to participate in athletics, success they will most definitely have.