Wage Unfairness Plagues USWNT

Anyone who had access to cable TV this past summer can attest to the fact that the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team kicks some serious…ball. These remarkable women held the world in rapt attention as they fought their way to the World Cup Final, where they beat the Japanese team with a 5-2 victory. Although this triumphant moment may have faded in the public eye since then, the reverberation of this tremendous feat still rings clear: Midfielder Carli Lloyd, who scored an unbelievable hat trick during the World Cup Final, recently stated that she and her teammates have “proven their worth” over the years. This formidable team rarely disappoints, both on and off the field.

So why have these high-performing women recently reemerged in the news? Unfortunately, it hasn’t been in recognition of their soccer skills: the players on the U.S. Women’s National Team are vastly underpaid, especially for the caliber of their athletic performance. Five members of the team recently filed a lawsuit with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, citing the extreme wage unfairness and disparate working conditions between them and their male counterparts.

In the regular season, these women earn, on average, only 40% of what the men do. After winning the 2015 World Cup, the U.S. women received a total award of $2 million. In the previous year, however, after being eliminated in the round of 16, the U.S. men were awarded $9 million, with a poor record of merely 1-2-1. In friendly matches, the men earn as much as $5,000 for a loss, whereas the women require a victory to earn just $1,350, receiving no monetary compensation for a loss or a tie.

It is evident that the USWNT is being drastically shortchanged. These women have three World Cup and four Olympic championships under their belts, sustaining a general victory streak over several decades. The U.S. men, on the other hand, “get paid more just to show up” than the women get paid to win. U.S. Soccer, the national governing body that oversees the sport, claims that the men’s team (albeit described as “historically mediocre”) attracts more revenue, attendance, and television ratings than does the women’s team. The players filing the complaint pointed out their rising revenue numbers, on top of the simple truth that the gender pay gap between the two teams is discriminatory against women.

A crucial point to note is that while the USWNT is evidently more high-performing than their male counterpart, and would certainly be justified in requesting pay raises proportional to their capabilities on the soccer field, this is not the stance the women have taken. All they ask for is pay equity. Is it really so much to ask that regardless of ability or gender, men and women are paid the same for doing the same work?

Indeed, the gendered wage gap is not a problem unique to the suit-wearing industry. Women in many fields suffer the consequences of pay inequity, not just in their bank accounts, but in their individual self-esteem. Imagine the toll this disparity takes on some of the most talented women in the world – women who have fought just as far and as hard as men have to attain such a high level of athletic prowess, only to be slighted on payday. It’s clear that money talks, and it’s up to U.S. Soccer to give the USWNT something to listen to.