The US women's national team entered the 2019 World Cup with their eyes on the prize. And they delivered. For the second World Cup in a row, the USWNT were crowned champions, topping off the tournament with a 2-0 victory over the Netherlands in Sunday's final.
This year's cup will be remembered for, among other things, USWNT’s Megan Rapinoe's excellence and world record audience numbers including 14.3 million viewers for the final, up 22% from the 2018 Men’s World Cup final. Yet as the cup was raised in Lyon Stadium, chants of “equal pay” rang out from fans.
The lack of equal pay between men and women takes something away from the thrill of winning. Three months before they began defending their Women's World Cup title, American players escalated their legal dispute with the U.S. Soccer Federation over equal treatment and pay. All 28 members say that the federation has paid them less than the men’s team.
With three World Cup titles and four Olympic gold medals under their belt, the women’s record far exceeds that of their male counterparts — yet the women players don’t make nearly the same money.
“The pay gap is an issue, and that issue will go on,” U.S. Soccer Foundation President and CEO Ed Foster-Simeon told Yahoo Finance’s YFi PM. Since their World Cup win in 2015, women’s soccer games have consistently produced a higher revenue than the men’s, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.
From 2016-2018, they also generated $50.8 million in revenue, compared to the men’s $49.9 million, according to The Journal.
The 28 members of the current women's player pool filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The class action lawsuit was filed on International Women's Day.
Players seek damages that include back pay.
"We believe it is our duty to be the role models that we've set out to be and fight to what we know we legally deserve," forward Christen Press told The Associated Press. "And hopefully in that way it inspires women everywhere."
This year, "a comparison of the WNT and MNT pay shows that if each team played 20 friendlies in a year and each team won all 20 friendlies, female WNT players would earn a maximum of $99,000 or $4,950 per game, while similarly situated male MNT players would earn an average of $263,320 or $13,166 per game against the various levels of competition they would face," the lawsuit says.
The bottom line: a top-tier women's player would make only 38 percent of a similarly situated men's player.
The pay disparity was very apparent at the World Cup: In 2014, the federation gave the men's roster a performance bonus of nearly $5.4 million after the U.S. went out in the round of 16 in Brazil. The women's team received a bonus of $1.72 million after winning the 2015 World Cup in Canada.
The last time the U.S. men made the World Cup field (in Brazil) male players selected to the roster received a $55,000 bonus, while the women received $15,000 each for making the 2015 World Cup, according to court documents. Additionally, the men shared a $2 million bonus for qualifying, while the women shared $300,000.
In this day and age, women are equal to men, and often surpass them, in every way but brute strength, which isn’t needed in advanced societies. Yet women in the U.S. are still at a disadvantage when it comes to wages. In addition, more women are living in poverty and experiencing sexual violence.
These inequities must end. Calling attention to them and raising awareness wherever inequalities exist, is the first vital step. The second vital step is changing mindsets when children are young.
In almost every field nowadays, girls are excelling. Many amazing female role models are inspiring examples of powerful females, making it to the tops of their fields, helping to make the world a better place for everyone, but especially for women and girls all over the world. There are presidential candidates, ground breaking journalists, countless female CEOs and CFOs of major corporations, and world class athletes.
It is time for equality to be the norm, time for us all to model the change we want to see in the world. It is a new era. Now is the time to speak up. It’s an election year and time to let candidates know that Equal Pay and the ERA are vital to our support.