Madeline Hubbard ’19
The disparity between men’s and women’s pay is no secret, but the National Women’s Soccer Team is now bringing the issue into the limelight. The gender pay gap has been a heated issue and a focus for feminists since Second Wave Feminism in the ’60’s. The U.S. women’s soccer team has joined the fight as five of its members filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The five players to do so are Hope Solo, Carli Lloyd, Becky Sauerbrunn, Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe. The team has recently earned four gold medals at the Olympic games and won three Women’s World Cup finals. Comparatively, the men’s team has competed in ten total FIFA World Cups and hasn’t won any. So why is it that the women’s team is paid about forty percent less than their male counterparts?
The Federation cited that male players, in general, are paid more because the revenue coming in is greater than for women’s sports. However, in 2016, the women’s soccer team brought in $20 million more in revenue than the men’s team. Even so, the women’s team earns significantly less in every category including pay for a regular exhibition game, the bonus if the team wins, the allowance for traveling (called per diem) and World Cup bonuses. If the women’s team won all twenty games in a year, they would be paid a total of $99,000. If the men’s team played and won 20 games, they would be paid a whopping $263,320. On top of that, the women are paid no additional money for playing more than the required twenty games while the men are paid anywhere from $5,000 to $17,000 per extra game.
This isn’t the first time the issue of equal treatment has come up for the women’s soccer team. Some members of the team, including star athlete Abby Wambach, filed and later dropped a suit for equal treatment in field quality. The World Cup games for women were played on turf, which can cause more injuries and stress on the body, while the men’s games were all played on manicured grass fields.
The Federation released a statement in response to the lawsuit stating that, “the players are claiming discrimination based on a more conservative structure, based on guaranteed compensation rather than pay to play, which they themselves requested, negotiated and approved of not once, but twice.” U.S. Soccer has argued that the women demanded a salary income system that comes with other benefits, such as payment when injured and medical benefits that the men’s team does not receive. The salary based payment type versus the bonus type payment does not address the issue of the large gap in money spent on advertising and sponsorships for the women’s and men’s team.
These women have not just filed the lawsuit for themselves, but to combat the larger issue of gender inequity in pay. They have recognized and are fighting back against the lack of equal value given to women’s sports compared to men’s sports. In an interview, Hope Solo spoke about the issue at hand and why these five women felt compelled to speak up. “In this day and age, it’s about equality. It’s about equal rights. It’s about equal pay. We’re pushing for that. We believe now the time is right because we believe it’s our responsibility for women’s sports and specifically for women’s soccer to do whatever it takes to push for equal pay and equal rights. And to be treated with respect,” she said.
Support for the players has been flooding in from all avenues, from the youngest of their fans to Hillary Clinton, who tweeted, “Wouldn’t want to face these women on the field or in the courtroom. Every woman deserves equal pay.” We wish the players the best of luck in the courtroom as this outcome could be a big step towards equal pay for men and women.