Our Stance: Close the pay gap in women’s soccer and the wider workforce

Contact CU Independent Assistant Opinion Editor Emily McPeak at emily.mcpeak@colorado.edu.

Last year, the U.S. women’s soccer national team won their third World Cup title. Their outstanding performance captured the hearts of viewers across the nation, and was later honored by President Obama. But last Wednesday, the team made headlines for something that will take place in the courts rather than on the soccer field. Five top players took a heroic move to end gender-based wage discrimination in the sport.

In a federal complaint, Hope Solo, Carli Lloyd, Becky Sauerbrunn, Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe accused U.S. Soccer, the governing body for soccer in America, of paying the members of the women’s team less than their male counterparts. Though these five players were the only ones to attach their names to the complaint, filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, they claim to be speaking for the entirety of the team.

What they are saying is disturbing– though they have historically been more successful than the men’s team, they cite figures from U.S. Soccer financial reports which suggest that they earn, at most, half as much as the men. This is even more troubling, considered other figures that indicate that the woman’s team has become the main source of income for the federation.

The figures cited, however, cannot be taken at face value. As U.S. Soccer has pointed out since the players filed the complaint, the members of the woman’s team have voted to be paid on a salary-based system. Men, on the other hand, have chosen a bonus centric-system. This could skew data, and make it seem as if there is a larger wage disparity than there actually is.

U.S. Soccer did not attempt to deny the allegations – though it did try to justify them. Specifically, members of the federation, including president Sunil Gulati, have argued that the men — on average — bring in more money than the women. Even if this claim is true, which is debatable (considering how the women’s team brought in 23.6 million in revenue in 2016 compared to the men’s 21 million) it is questionable whether or not it would mean male soccer players deserve to earn more than female soccer players.

The fact of the matter is that a wage disparity does exist between American male and female soccer players, and it is larger than what should be justifiable on the basis of which gender earns the most money. Not only does a male player make more than $1,000 than a female player per game, they also get a $8,166 bonus when they win. When a female player wins, she only gets a $1,350 bonus. Furthermore, male players make more in a year during which they loose all 20 exhibition games than a female player would make if they won all 20 games.

What makes the U.S. women’s soccer players’ complaint about gender-based wage discrimination so notable is the persisting reality of pay inequality in the U.S. It is commonly stated that women make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes, but there is more to it than that. Though women today make roughly the same as their male counterparts upon entering the work force, the small gap that exists widens the longer a woman remains at work. Over the course of a 35-year career, a woman will make on average 1.2 million less than a man with the same level of education.

This disparity exists due to various factors. These include occupational difference between the genders, the continued role of women as the primary caregiver at home, and persisting societal factors like subconscious discrimination. Ending the disparity would be beneficial to both men and women; many economists agree that it would help to stimulate the economy, strengthen the middle class, decrease the level of poverty and make the U.S. more competitive in global markets.

This is why it is essential for women in the national spotlight, such as top U.S. female soccer players, to publicly fight back against gender-based wage discrimination. These women are already inspiring young girls across the nation to chase their dreams and prove their power in a country which continues to be dominated by men. Now, they can help to lead all American women in the struggle for equal pay.

As Tim Howard, goalkeeper for the U.S. men’s soccer team, stated in an interview last week, “Any time, no matter the gender or race, someone feels they are underpaid, it is a problem and I feel they should fight for their rights, no matter what…they have their battle to fight, and they should do that.”

Next Thursday, April 14, is Equal Pay Day, a day which symbolizes how far into the year a woman has to work to earn the same amount of income a man made in the previous year. We should all take this chance to join the fight to bring a final and lasting end to the persisting problem of the gender pay gap.

Emily McPeak

Emily McPeak is an undergraduate student who writes about society and politics. She is studying journalism and political science.

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