By Latifa Waithera Zain
Three months and 24 days is how long it took for the average woman to earn close to the same amount as the average male did in 2020. For years women have been fighting to achieve the same as their male counterparts. Although the gap is closing, it is still significantly large.
Equal Pay Day is dedicated to creating awareness of the gender pay gap. This year, in honor of this equal pay day, President Biden and first lady Jill Biden, hosted U.S. Women National Soccer Team (USWNT) stars Megan Rapinoe and Margaret Purce.
Rapinoe delivered a powerful speech as she continues to fight for the pay she and her fellow USWNT teammates strongly believe they deserve. The women filed a $66.7 million lawsuit against the US Soccer Federation last year, claiming that the federation used “institutionalized gender discrimination” against them. However, a judge dismissed the case in its entirety. Nonetheless, that won’t stop their fight for equal pay.
“Despite all of the wins, I’m still paid less than the men who do the same job I do,” Rapino said.
Rapinoe is a highly decorated soccer player. She is a two-time world cup winner, two-time Olympic gold medalist, and recently won the FIFA women’s best – one of the most highly acclaimed individual awards. There are, however, many people who do not understand Rapinoe’s success. Many believe that there are players out there, even within her team, who produce better numbers. Therefore, they deserve more recognition than her. This brings about the first issue many have with her arguments.
However, the problem the USWNT has faced with the US Soccer Federation is not about the mistreatment of Rapinoe and Rapinoe only, but the team as a collective whole, and there is no denying the success that is of the USWNT. They are the most successful women’s world cup team and are considered the most dominant in women’s soccer. The women won the 2019 women’s world cup and are favorited to win the Olympics this year. They are good at what they do. So why aren’t they paid the same as their male counterparts?
“The women’s teams don’t make back enough money,” says a University of Tampa student who wishes to remain anonymous due to fear of backlash. “It’s like two businesses. One has many people buying their product so they can pay their workers well. The other business doesn’t bring in as much money, so they physically can’t play them as much as business ones.”
This would hold true if the USWNT were fighting against the FIFA federation at large. There is no denying that the Men’s World Cup racks in more viewers worldwide. The 2015 women’s world cup had a total of 764 million viewers. While the 2018 men’s world cup collected 3.6 Billion viewers. More viewers mean more endorsements, and more endorsements mean more money made. The FIFA federation can pay the men what they do because the men generated that money. The women don’t. However, the USWNT fight is currently with the US Soccer Federation.
They argue that they make less than their male counterparts, the U.S. men’s team not the England men’s team. When you look at the U.S. alone, the 2019 women’s world cup had 14.3 million viewers in the U.S., while the 2018 men’s world cup had 11.4 million viewers in the U.S.
Not to mention, the last time the U.S. men’s team qualified for the world cup was in 2014 where they didn’t move past the round of 16. Before that, they hadn’t played in the world cup since 1990. And they also haven’t qualified for the Olympics since 2008.
The U.S. men’s team is not playing on the big stage like the women are. They are not elevating the U.S. like the women are. Their jersey sales are less than the women’s.
In a country where it is as clear that the men’s team generates more money, Brazil pays both men’s and women’s soccer teams equally. The Brazil men’s is the most successful national team in the world. But, they found a way to pay their women the same as their men. England, Australia, Norway, and New Zealand also announced that they pay their women the same. So why won’t the U.S.?
“It’s probably because men get more media coverage. Men’s sports are marketed more. Women don’t get as much coverage,” says Tricia Jean-Louis, a freshman at UT. “When men began sports leagues, they were supported by billions in taxpayer subsidies. They were prioritized in the media and offered the time to grow,” Rapinoe said.
There is not enough invested in the USWNT. They are not given the same time of day as their male counterparts. They argue that if they were endorsed as much as the men, they would bring in as much as the men. Some believe this to be outlandish. That women’s soccer is not nearly as entertaining as men’s or as challenging. But the girls are marketable, and they have proven it multiple times over.
Just last year, Christen Press and Tobin Heath signed for Manchester United on a one-year deal. According to a study by the Athletic, Manchester United is the biggest club in England. They have also been named the world’s most famous club with a worldwide fan base of 1.1 Billion as of 2019. However, with all the eyes on the Men’s team, from all over the world, Press and Heath sold the most jerseys of any first team member, male or female, after signing for the Red Devils. Big names like Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford, and David De Gea sold fewer jerseys than both Press and Heath. The problem isn’t the girl’s marketability because they are marketable. The problem is “institutionalized gender discrimination.”
“You never expect a flower to bloom without water. But women in sports who have been denied water, sunlight, and soil are expected to blossom,” said Rapinoe.