Monday Author: Susanne Skinner
“The conversation is no longer about should we have equal pay, or should we be supporting women. It’s how do we support not only athletes but women in general.”
~ Megan Rapinoe
Next month I will celebrate six years of blogging on The Next Phase Blog! What began as a guest invitation from Aline to write about job searching grew into a weekly post that I have loved and made my own.
The idea of writing a weekly blog intimidated and intrigued me. The journey I began six years ago broadened my thinking, challenged my opinions and increased my curiosity. My heartfelt thanks to Aline, whose encouragement, guidance and editorial oversight continue to develop my skills.
Posts Supporting Women
As I wander down this memory lane, it is interesting to read my very first attempts at writing and compare them against my writing today. I checked—then doubled checked—that during these six years, I’ve written only one post with singular attention to a woman in the news and that woman is Malala Yousafzai.
It surprised me because I champion women in their fight for equality. Aline’s post on the gender pay gap reminds us that women continue to fight for equal pay for the work they do. Now there is a new voice advocating on their behalf.
Megan Rapinoe, co-captain of the U.S. women’s soccer team, may be the catalyst women in sports have been waiting for. The salary disparity faced by women in sports and the work force in general is nothing new, but Megan is a fresh voice raised for all women who fight for equal pay. She’s got game and fame.
More Questions than Answers
U.S. Soccer President Carlos Cordeiro faced overwhelming heckling when attempting to speak during the parade celebrating the women’s World Cup win. He began his speech with the words, “In recent months you have raised your voices for equality and …we hear you.”
Really? Has this man been living under a rock? What part of the decades-old equal pay battle cry did he fail to hear? Mr. Cordeiro is in his sixties, and although he has held this position for only one year, he is most certainly aware of the salary discrepancy between men and women on the soccer field. In the face of all that heckling, it sounded more patronizing and less like a true commitment to champion change.
Meanwhile, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently signed new pay equity legislation that requires equal pay for “substantially similar work.” The bills intent is to eliminate the gender wage gap and bans employers from differentiating salaries based on race, age, gender identity, sexual orientation and other protected classes.
While I applaud the intent, I wonder what part of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 escaped Gov. Cuomo’s attention. Equal pay has been the law for 56 years. Do we need a law for the law?
Equal Pay Means Equal Pay
I blogged on the topic of equal pay one year ago, pointing out this law has failed to enforce or close the gap while employers continue to create and implement work arounds.
Sports are no different than any other workplace. Salary inequity is found in the office, the military, manufacturing plants, boardrooms, classrooms and even the space station. Men earn more than women for doing the same job. In sports, more money flows into men’s professional leagues across the globe, creating another layer of imbalance.
On the soccer field, women are better players and win more games. To put this in perspective, the women’s team has won four World Cups and four Olympic gold medals. The men’s team haven’t won an Olympic medal in more than a century, were eliminated in the 2014 World Cup playoffs and failed to even qualify for the 2018 playoffs in Russia. They have yet to play in a World Cup final.
Just how unequal is it? FIFA, soccer’s governing body, doubled the amount the Women’s World Cup paid in 2019 in the hope of deflecting criticism, but it is still 7.5 percent of the total prize money awarded to the 2018 men’s French World Cup champions. This is what the numbers look like:
World Cup Prize Money: Men vs. Women
Year Total Purse Winner’s Prize
2018 (men) $400 million $38 million
2019 (women) $30 million $4 million
The U.S. men’s team would have earned 1.1 million dollars per player had they won the World Cup. Soccer does not stand alone. In the Women’s National Basketball Association, the players average $71,635, while men earn a minimum of $582,180.
What Can Megan Do?
On her own, not a lot. However, with her team, all 28 players filed a lawsuit against the United States Soccer Federation, accusing the organization of “institutionalized gender discrimination” including inequity in pay, practice time, practice locations, medical treatment, coaching and travel.
It’s a start. It has publicly called attention (again) to an issue that by all accounts will not be fully equalized until 2039.
Young women, especially those pursuing athletic dreams, look for role models. Megan is bold, classy, sassy and gay—a dynamo unafraid to voice her opinion. When speaking about her teammates she says,
“We’ve got pink hair and purple hair. We have tattoos and dreadlocks. We’ve got white girls and black girls and everything in between. Straight girls and gay girls. Hey! We’re female athletes, but we’re so much more than that.”
Megan responded to Carlos by challenging him to stand behind his words. She did it by agreeing with him, calling him out when she said, “We know you’re with us.” She put him in the hot seat to stand and deliver.
Let’s see if he can grab that ball and run with it.