U.S. Women's Soccer team showcases top play, equality – including equal pay for equal work

Editor’s note: The United States Women’s Soccer Team powered past an unbeaten English team with a 2-1 victory on Tuesday evening to claim a spot in the  World Cup Final on Sunday. When they return stateside, the team switches to a “longer term” game as they work towards mediation in an equal pay lawsuit. The team, and co-captain Megan Rapinoe who sat our Tuesday’s game, have become symbols for equal pay as described in the column below written earlier.

By Guest Columnist MELITA EASTERS, founding chair and executive director of Georgia’s Win List

U.S. Women’s Soccer team co-captain Megan Rapinoe scored two goals during the June 28 match against France, giving her team a stunning victory over the host country and a semi-final July 2 match-up with England.

Melita Easters

Melita Easters

“Purple-Haired Lesbian Goddess Flattens France Like a Crepé,” read the headline for a Deadspin story about the win. The victory comes at a time when the women’s team is suing for wage discrimination and during a week when Rapinoe’s off-field political opinions created perhaps more headlines than her world-renowned athletic ability.

Indeed, Ms. Rapinoe became a foil for and target of the presidential “Tweeter-in-chief’s” commentary prior to the match after saying she (and some teammates) would not accept a White House invitation because the president is clearly “against” many of the issues she and her teammates hold dear.

As the top-ranked United States team heads into the World Cup final rounds, it carries the dreams of many young women, and some young men, who proudly wear team jersey replicas as a show of respect for the three time world champions and four time Olympic Gold medalists who now dominate the sport internationally – unlike their male counterparts on the United States national team.

The United States women’s team is not just a symbol of athletic grace and superiority; players have now become a powerful example of standing up for equality in all forms, particularly equal pay for equal work.

Once the excitement of the World Cup is over, representatives of the USWNT are scheduled for mediation arising from a lawsuit filed in March which alleges “institutionalized gender discrimination” by the U.S. Soccer Federation over a period of years, according to a report by si.com. Among the allegations are both pay and working conditions including an argument the women play more games than the men’s team, win more of those games and still get paid less, according to a story in nytimes.com.

“We very much believe it is our responsibility not only for our team and for future U.S. players, but for players around the world – and frankly women all around the world – to feel like they have an ally in standing up for themselves, and fighting for what they believe in, and fighting for what they deserve and for what they feel like they have earned,” Ms. Rapinoe was quoted in the March 8 story in the nytimes.com, as the lawsuit was first filed.

One great disparity between men’s and women’s teams are the multi-million dollar bonuses the world soccer governing body pays teams for participation in the World Cup – a pool of $400 million divided among 32 men’s teams versus a pool of $30 million divided among 24 women’s teams, according to the nytimes.com story.

lovett soceer

Top level soccer players following the U.S. Women’s Soccer team and its co-captain, Megan Rapinoe, include members of The Lovett School’s girls soccer team, who won their division in the 2016 state championship. Credit: Special to SaportaReport.com

The lawsuit filed by the soccer stars shines a spotlight on pay inequities that are rampant across the globe, across all educational levels and in most professions. Women across the globe are paid 63 percent of what men earn, according to the World Economic Forum.

This pay gap would take 200 years to correct if the pace of change remains at the current level. There is not a single country where women are paid as much as men and Laos, in Southeast Asia, comes closest to parity where women’s wages stand at 91 percent of those paid men. Women in Iraq, Syria and Yemen face the largest pay gaps, with women in those countries earning only 30 percent of men’s wages, according to a report in guardian.com.

In the United States, even though women are now receiving more college and graduate degrees than men, women make only 80.5 cents on the dollar for the same work performed by white men. On average, women earn less for every single occupation tracked by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Women of color generally fall behind white women when wages are compared, with African American women earning 65.4 cents on the dollar and Hispanic women earning 53.8 cents on the dollar.

Georgia women fare better in state-by-state rankings for employment and earnings than several surrounding states and 24th in the nation overall. In Georgia, women 82.6 percent of the salaries earned by men, based on figures from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. The highest ranking salaries in the nation are paid in the District of Columbia with the states of Maryland, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York rounding out the top five. The lowest ranking states are Alabama, Louisiana, Idaho and West Virginia, with Mississippi ranking dead last.

One root cause for continuing pay inequities is representation in the political sphere, where laws that could mandate equal pay are passed. Of the 149 countries surveyed by the Global Economic Forum, only 17 currently have women as heads of state. Women comprise 18 percent of cabinet or ministerial posts and 24 percent of legislative posts internationally.

When it comes to women holding political office in legislative bodies at least, the United States falls just below the international average, with women holding 23.7 percent of the seats in Congress, despite 2018 having been a record setting year for the election of women nationwide. Many are surprised to learn Georgia beats the national and international average, with the 30.5 percent of female legislators giving Georgia a ranking of 20th nationwide.

Simply put: When there are more women making laws, laws will provide equal pay protections for women. In the meantime, women must hope for court intervention, suing employers that pay them less — following the example of the United States Women’s Soccer team. It is safe to say, as women cheer the United States team for their next games, they also hope they will prevail, and set a new worldwide standard for pay equity in the outcome of their lawsuit.

The 1967 Aretha Franklin version of Otis Redding’s song became an anthem for both the feminist and civil rights movement. These days as women demand equal pay for equal work, perhaps the 50-year-old anthem should be spelled in a slightly different way:

R-E-$-P-E-C-T.

Note to readers: Melita Easters is a former journalist who last wrote about sports as a features “stringer” for The Macon Telegraph during her college days. She is founding chair and currently serves as executive director of Georgia’s WIN List, a political action committee, which seeks to elect more women to legislative and statewide office in Georgia.

 

 

5 replies
  1. Avatar
    DSM says:

    Megan Rapinoe is yet another selfish ungrateful athlete who abuses her position to push personal beliefs as if nobody else is right, just her, her views, her life. My God the arrogance of such a stance. Incredible. Where's her tolerance for diversity or is she just another hipocrite who doesn't stand for diversity unless everyone agrees with HER VIEW? Puke city man this is getting so old. Yawn. Rapinoe has ruined the image of the US women's soccer team. How selfish.Report

    Reply
  2. Avatar
    Greg Hodges says:

    Sorry, but the "80 cents on the dollar" pay gap myth has been debunked so many times, it gets tiresome explaining the fallacy behind it. Female adults, as a group, are out of the workforce for longer periods than male adults, as a group. (Child birth, child rearing, caring for other family members , etc) Female adults, also as a group, gyrate to employment areas such as child care workers, hospitality and food service, retail workers, secondary teaching, nursing home positions, etc that have lower rates of pay that do fields that attract more adult males (as a group) such as construction and building , trades such as electricians, HVAC techs, plumbers, automotive technicians, and sales and marketing jobs, engineering, computer programing, etc. that generally offer higher levels of wages. There is no big secret plot among employers to pay their female employees (with EXACTLY the same time in grade, with EXACTLY the same education and training background) less that their male employees with EXACTLY the same credentials for doing EXACTLY the same job. It is a bogus argument.
    But, if Ms Easters truly believes in this evil plot to keep female workers down and indeed pay them only 80 cents on the dollar as compared to male workers who are doing EXACTLY the same job with EXACTLY same length of employment , then why on earth would employers and companies not strive to ONLY employee females, and to employ as FEW males as possible…..just .look at the untold amounts of additional profits that American employers could reap by doing just that ?
    Good grief.Report

    Reply
  3. Avatar
    Chris Johnston says:

    Ms. Easters' posts are primarily intended to promote the Democrat Party and its causes du jour, no matter whether the causes are true or relevant.Report

    Reply
  4. Avatar
    Darren S. says:

    The US women's soccer team wants to be taken seriously? Then stop talking politics and stop posing for bikini shots and play the sport. Some of these ladies have exploited their gender to make money and then they want to be taken seriously? Seriously. Please ladies. You sold out long ago. You don't deserve equal pay because you aren't equal to the men's soccer revenue. It's called buisness. Go pose for some more bikini shots.Report

    Reply
  5. Avatar
    Chris Johnston says:

    Darren, I would agree with you were NFL and NBA owners and players not pandering in public for quite a while.
    The women are restrained in contrast to their male counterparts.
    You cannot have it both ways.Report

    Reply

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