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Why We Need to See the US Women’s Soccer Team Fight for Equal Pay

Why We Need to See the US Women’s Soccer Team Fight for Equal Pay

The US Women’s Soccer Team won the World Cup title in 2015. The final was the most watched soccer game of all time in the US with more than 26 million viewers. Yet the women’s team players are currently paid 30% less than their male counterparts. The women’s team was denied when they presented the winning statistics and asked for a pay raise. Now, the US Women’s Soccer Team is suing the US Soccer Federation in a pay discrimination case.

Why is the women’s team forced to sue the US Soccer Federation to obtain fair pay?

Business leaders such as Sallie Krawcheck, Chair of Ellevate Network, and Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of Lean In, discuss pay differences and recommend specific actions for women: Ask for a raise. Present metrics to show you are delivering performance. Show the revenue you are generating for the organization. The women’s soccer team followed the protocol and took these actions. Yet their request was refused.

It is a rare situation where there are metrics, revenue and a non-subjective victory of a World Cup Title to support the women’s case against the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The women’s team lawyer said the federation called the pay raise “an irrational request.” The resistance to the idea of equal pay continues to be a shock.

It is fair to acknowledge that men’s soccer is more popular in the world. However, when comparing the success of the US women’s record to the US men’s record (which includes a top 16 finish in 2014 World Cup) and the number of television viewers, women’s soccer games have been more popular for viewership.

In the US, the prevailing view for the 23% pay difference between genders is that women don’t ask for pay raises. They don’t back up their requests with data. They don’t threaten to leave. I learned from Mika Brzezinski’s book Knowing Your Value (I recommend her book to everyone) that it was not until she threatened to quit that she received a pay raise. She was making just 10% of the amount paid to her male co-host on MSNBC’s morning show when she threatened to quit and ultimately received a pay raise.

Will the women’s team need to threaten a boycott?

The US women’s soccer team provides us with a live example of pay discrimination and the opportunity to address it. The women’s team asked, presented metrics and delivered results: A World Cup Championship, a gold medal in 2012, record television viewers. Other than an outright refusal, there seems to be an opportunity for both sides to create a fair salary structure including incentive bonuses based upon winnings, revenue, and viewership.

The Women’s soccer team is now forced to take the case to court. Hopefully, the consistent results will make a clear case for a pay raise for the women’s team. We'll get to watch how the case plays out in the media. With Tom Brady’s lawyer representing the US women’s team, can the system really find a way to keep paying them 30% less?

Best of luck out there, ladies. 157 million women in the USA are watching how this case evolves. More than 3 billion women around the world will benefit from the example of a fair outcome.

In support of the women’s team, I pose the question: If you were following the rules, and you’re not getting equal pay, what advice would you have for the US Women’s Soccer Team?

Image Source: Flickr


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