FEATURES: Inequality Debate Rages On In Women’s Soccer

(Photo courtesy odysseyonline.com)

(Photo courtesy odysseyonline.com)

By Ann Reed – Staff Reporter

To 11-year-old Molly Reed, the members of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team are superheros. Their fast footwork, and overwhelming success remind her that if she works her hardest, she too can be a superhero. The look of utter disappointment that came over her face when she first learned of the pay gap was one i will never forget.

“Equal pay for equal play, equal pay for equal play.” This is the sound that can be heard miles away from Pratt and Whittney Stadium in East Hartford, as twenty thousand fans plea for equality. This is a game Reed has been counting down the months to, dreaming of the moment that she could see these powerful women grace the field. However, there was a different energy in the air, one of  which she has never experienced. An energy of anger and disappointment.

After being informed that the women she aspires to be are unjustly underpaid, Reed’s response was, “But why? They work just as hard as the men! That doesn’t make any sense!”

Reed isn’t the only one to feel this way; thousands of fans all around the country have voiced their disbelief in this stark injustice. The statistics are staggering. U.S. women’s soccer players make a mere one fourth of what the men soccer players make, despite being the highest ranked team in the world opposed to the men’s ranking of twenty-ninth in the world. The women made $16 million more for US Soccer then the men last year, yet they are getting paid significantly less. For a won game, each Woman’s National team player receive $3,600, plus a $1,350 bonus. For the exact same victory, the men’s national team would receive $5,000 each plus an $8,166 bonus. Getting views is not a problem for the Women’s national team either, in fact, last July’s Women’s World Cup final was the most watched soccer match—men’s or women’s—ever in the U.S., with some 25.4 million viewers.

The problem doesn’t lie solely in American soccer, however. According to USWNT midfielder Carli Lloyd, Yorely Rincon, the Colombian midfielder and a friend of Lloyd, told her that players on that team had not been paid for four months.

“We want to help them, too,” Lloyd said. “It’s a shame. We’re trying to set the standard and get what we deserve.”

This movement for equality is not a new development; in fact, the fight began back in January for several women’s soccer stars, when they filed a request to U.S. Soccer for equal pay for equal work. Instead of considering this request, or even discussing the inequality with the women’s, U.S. Soccer sued all women involved. After issuing a statement saying it was “disappointed” that the action was taken, U.S. Soccer issued a second statement Thursday afternoon, saying it is “committed to and engaged” in negotiating a new CBA “that addresses compensation with the U.S. women’s national team when the current CBA expires at the end of this year.” The President of USSF adds by saying”We think very highly of the women’s national team and we want to compensate them fairly, and we’ll sit down and work thru that with them when all of this settles down,”

“I’ve been on this team for a decade and a half, and I’ve been through numerous CBA negotiations, and honestly, not much has changed,” U.S. Women’s National Team Goalkeeper Hope Solo says,”We continue to be told we should be grateful just to have the opportunity to play professional soccer, to get paid for doing it.”

How are women all around the world supposed to gain the confidence needed to demand what they deserve when they see women trying to and being sued in return? If the women that are known all around the world for being the toughest and the strongest can’t get the equality they deserve, then how are everyday women supposed to. The hierarchical diffusion of inequality is one that is preventable, which is what makes it so painful. Advocates argue that if U.S. Soccer simply gave the women what they deserve, other major corporations would see that it is the right thing to do and the cycle would start to be broken.

To top everything off, the US Soccer Federation is a nonprofit organization, making it confusing as to why they are basing compensation decisions not based on performance, but on potential revenue, especially after Title IX. In fact, Title IX did not change much for women in any sports. Women in Tennis do earn equal prize money at all four grand-slam events—the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. However, when looking farther into their salaries, Women can earn up to 37,000 dollars less than their male counterparts. In Basketball, the highest-paid player in the WNBA makes roughly one-fifth that of the lowest-paid player in the NBA. Two years ago, 52 NBA players each earned more than all of the players in the WNBA combined. And within the golf world, the LPGA awarded a total of $61.6 million in prize money, while the PGA awards five times that with $320 million. These women are training just as hard as their male counterparts, and in whole, are more successful than them, yet they still continue to be unjustly consempated.

The wage gap is not an isolated instance within sports, In fact, the average woman in the U.S. makes 77% what a man makes for the same work, with an even lesser percentage for women of minorities. The wage gap includes women in all lines of work, with the largest ones occurring with Physicians and surgeons and personal financial advisors.

It is interesting that some of the most educated women in the country, (doctors and physicians), are the ones being treated with the most inequality. Furthermore,  this stark injustices is nothing new, and according to predictions, won’t be going away anytime soon.

According to the OECD, the U.S. gender pay gap is 17.9%. These pay gaps aren’t fading anytime soon; at current rates of progress, gender wage equality will take another 70 ‘years to materialize. And that is just within the United States. There are plenty of countries around the world with even more inequality than right here at home. While the pay gap in the U.S. is 17.9%,, Korea’s is 36.6%.

This is an unimaginable amount for women in the U.S., as many already feel their current situation is as bad as it can get. What makes the wage gap so difficult to comprehend is that completely lacks ration. Opposers to equality say that women get paid less because they work less, and are less educated as a whole. There is absolutely no truth to this statement, as a matter of fact, women outnumber men in college not only in the U.S, but all around the world. Other opposers to equality say that women get paid less because they are more likely to take maternity leave than men are to take paternity leave. But even if this difference didn’t exist, the gender gap in pay still would, and a lack of education, skill, and experience cannot explain it. The only explanation for this gap is simply discrimination against one gender.

Although on April 6, at Pratt and Whittney Stadium in East Hartford, the U.S. Women’s National Team walked away with a win over Colombia, their fight towards a much larger win continues on. It is disheartening that, as of right now, Molly Reed may never know what it feels like to be equally consempated. At just eleven years old, Reed has already learned had to learn the harsh lesson that no matter how hard she works, she will never be treated or paid the same as her male counterparts. She arrived at that game a young girl with big dreams, and she left a whole new person, with a firm grasp on reality. Watching sports is supposed to provide hope for a nation, a feat the U.S. Women have succeeded in doing, however if we continue down this path of inequality, hope could be lost for many more young women out there just like Reed.

(Some information courtesy of nytimes.com, espn.go.com, huffingtonpost.com, fortune.com, newsweek.com)

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