Same field. Same rules. Same goals. Same amount of game time.
So what’s the difference between the women’s U.S. soccer team and the men’s?
Five key members of the U.S. women’s soccer team — goalkeeper Hope Solo, co-captains Carli Lloyd and Becky Sauerbrunn, forward Alex Morgan and midfielder Megan Rapinoe — have filed a federal complaint accusing U.S. Soccer of wage discrimination, after being paid almost four times less than the men’s team last year, despite the fact they brought in much more revenue.
The teams play in equal conditions. The fields are the same dimensions regardless of gender, as are the goal post dimensions. They follow the same rules and play for the same length of time. In fact, the women’s team played more tournaments than the men’s team in 2015, according to the U.S. Soccer Federation’s website.
During last year’s World Cup, each team was awarded monetary bonuses by U.S. Soccer for reaching certain rounds. The women’s team won the championship title and received $1.8 million to split among the players. The men’s team lost in the round of 16 and was awarded $3.8 million. If the men’s team had won the World Cup, it would have been awarded a $9.3 million bonus. The difference is astounding.
It’s not just World Cup figures that speak to the inequality. There are different pay structures set up for exhibition games, as well. Women get $3,600 per game with an extra $1,350 if they win. Meanwhile, men receive $5,000 per game with a bonus $8,166 if they win.
The teams are required to play 20 exhibition games for which women are paid $72,000 if they lose them all and $99,000 if they win them all. The men make $100,000 losing them all and $263,320 if all games are won.
Last year, the women’s team brought in more revenue than the men. In the past four-year cycle, the women brought in slightly less revenue than the men.
If all the circumstances of the game are the same and the women have better outcomes and just a slightly lower amount of revenue, why is the pay grade so stacked against them?
The argument for the rest of the workforce is that the pay gap is a byproduct of maternity leaves and extended leaves of absence due to raising a family. These soccer players weren’t on maternity leave during the World Cup — they were winning an international title.
They train hard, play at an elite level and maybe even get more recognition than the men’s team. The women’s soccer team has won the women’s World Cup three times, the men’s best result was third place in 1930 — nearly 85 years ago.
In the CONCACAF confederation — a league including North, South and Central Americas as well as the Caribbean — where both teams play league games, the women’s team has won seven championships despite only playing eight times. The U.S. men’s soccer team has won five times.
By all measures, it’s illogical that the women are paid less. The circumstances are stacked in their favor, so why is there such a big difference?
This lawsuit sheds light on the often discredited problem of the pay gap. The gap between men and women’s wages is pervasive throughout our society and can cost women thousands of dollars over their lifetimes. It only gets worse as women progress through the workforce, since the wage gap widens as they continue on with their careers.
These arguments are mostly discredited by saying women purposefully take lower-paying jobs, or the gap is due to maternity leave. This U.S. soccer team is an example of the opposite. Even when the women are doing everything right, they are still paid significantly less.
This goes to show how extreme of a problem income inequality across our society. This isn’t just the women’s soccer players’ problem, it’s a problem for the majority of professional women.
Although there are laws that state men and women need to be paid the same amount for the same work, the reality is that our society is stuck in antiquated ideas of women’s worth in comparison to men, and that is reflected in the differences in their salaries.
The U.S. women’s soccer team is the best in the world and that fact should be reflected in its pay. Yet, if you looked at their salaries, you’d think the men are the best.
U.S. soccer needs to even out the paying field.