The 2019 Women’s World Cup soccer tournament is shining a light on Women’s Soccer. Players for the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) are shining a light on gender discrimination in employment and the pay gap that continues to exist between women and men doing the same job. U.S. laws, including The Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, prohibit employers from wage discrimination on the basis of sex, meaning employers cannot pay women lower wages than men for equal work. While equal pay for equal work is the law of the land, many employers still fail to comply.
On March 8, 2019, a date which coincided with the celebration of International Women’s Day, all twenty-five members of the U.S. women’s national soccer team filed suit against their employer, the United States Soccer Federation, claiming sex discrimination and unequal pay. The players claim that the federation and its leaders have engaged in a long-standing pattern of gender-based employment discrimination, the most glaring part of which is the significant difference in pay between what the women earn and what the members of the U.S. men’s national team earn. According to the complaint, the USWNT players earn only 38%, or just .38 cents on the dollar compared to the men. The U.S. Soccer Federation employs the players on both the women’s and the men’s teams. A women’s team player earns a base of $3,600 per game while a men’s team player earns $5,000. In a hypothetical season of 20 friendlies where each U.S. team went undefeated, a women’s base salary is nearly $30,000 less than that of a player on the men’s squad.
This wage gap is virtually impossible to justify given the fact that the U.S. Women’s team is generally considered the world’s best and most marketable team in all of women’s soccer. Since the first FIFA Women’s World Cup was held in 1991, the USWNT has won three of the seven titles (1991, 1999, 2015). The team is seeking its fourth World Cup title this week at the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France, and has won four Olympic Gold medals.
By contrast, USMNT has never won a World Cup. In 2018, the men’s team didn’t even qualify to play in the Men’s World Cup tournament. Yet U.S. Soccer awarded the men’s team a $5.375 million performance bonus for losing in the round of 16 of the 2014 World Cup. It awarded the women $1.725 million for winning the 2015 World Cup.
The time has come for employers to close the gender pay gap. Research shows that leveling pay between men and women has economic benefits including reducing the poverty rate among working women by half, increasing women’s participation in the job market, and adding an estimated $512.6 billion to the U.S. economy if men’s wages stayed the same. The USWNT is fighting to make equal pay for equal play a reality for all working women at the same time they are fighting to win an unprecedented fourth World Cup title.
For more information about the U.S. Women’s Soccer team’s fight for equal pay, see: