This week five members of the U.S. Women’s National Team (including stars Hope Solo, Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, and Megan Rapinoe) filed a wage-discrimination action against the Unites States Soccer Federation. The action comes in response to a recent report that the although the Women’s National Team generates $20 million more in revenue than the men’s team, the women are only being paid a fraction the amount the men are. (More on the numbers here.)
There's always quibbling over just how big the gender pay gap is, but there's certainly no denying it exists, and now all of America is looking to this news story as the perfect example of it, writ large. The women train as hard as the men do and play as hard as the men do. They represent their country and have even had more success in the past two decades than the men ever have (I'm talking two World Cup victories and gold medals, titles the men have never claimed). And now, there's even evidence that they bring in more money! There is no excuse for such a disparaging pay gap as there is now, which is why these women have asked the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to investigate the situation.
Player Megan Rapinoe said in a recent interview that she (and the other four players who filed the action) felt this was a necessary step because "it has become clear that the Federation has no intention of providing us equal pay for equal work." And that is totally unacceptable.
I know, and you know, that these women deserve better. At the end of the day, it isn't just the dollar figures that matter, but equality for women, especially role models such as these. There are so many young girls who look up to these incredible athletes, and are inspired to pursue their dreams. What kind of message does this send to them, that even when women are more successful on just about every measure, they're being told they aren't worth as much as the boys? Because that’s what unequal pay for the same work is saying: “You aren’t worth it.”
Here’s hoping that these leading ladies of soccer standing up for themselves gives the rest of the world a clue of this. Not only do I hope they win their legal battle and see real changes in their wages—and in other discrepancies throughout the sport—I hope this story wakes up the public to doing their part to turn the tide. Because if we who are horrified that these ladies are paid less want to put our words into action, that would mean, in the world of sports, we start attending games, buying merchandise, and tuning in. Which isn’t so hard when they’re as impressive as this team.
Photo: Getty Images