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As the USWNT’s winning streak continues, could equal pay finally be in sight?

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Christobel Hastings
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The USNWT are the best national team in the world, and are cruising towards a historic fourth World Cup win after their victory against Spain. With the news that the U.S women’s team will mediate with the U.S Soccer Federation following the World Cup, will they finally be compensated fairly?

They’re the team to beat in the Women’s World Cup right now, and are on course for a historic fourth World Cup title following a fourth victory against Spain, setting them up for a quarter-final match against World Cup hosts France on Friday.

But for the U.S women’s soccer team who are blazing a trail in women’s football, there’s still one major issue following them in their wake: the gender pay gap.

As 28 members of the women’s national team continue with their federal lawsuit against the U.S Soccer Federation for allegedly engaging in “institutionalised gender discrimination” and violating both the Civil Rights Act and Equal Pact Act by compensating the men’s national team with higher wages, a resolution to the year-long conflict could be in sight.

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According to The Wall St Journal, the two parties have tentatively agreed to pursue mediation over the claims of pay discrimination following the Women’s World Cup.

“In the midst of the World Cup, following news regarding significant revenue generated by the women players, USSF decided it is time to sit down with the players’ lawyers,” said Molly Levinson, a representative for the players. “We hope their pledge to submit a proposal to solve the ongoing gender disparities is genuine. It would be truly remarkable for these games to mark the beginning of pay equity. The world is watching.”

The dispute over pay inequalities comes amidst new findings that the U.S women’s soccer team’s games actually outearn the men’s team now, even though its players are still being paid drastically less than their male counterparts.

According to audited financial statements obtained by The Wall St Journal, the women’s team’s games generated $50.8 million in revenue from 2016 to 2018 compared to the men’s team’s games which made $49.9 million, with the USWNT earning $1.9 million more than the men’s team in 2016 alone. Tell us again why the women’s team is paid so much less?

Though it’s hard to pinpoint exact wages, the lawsuit argues that if there were 20 friendlies won by the men’s and women’s teams, a women’s soccer player would make just $99,000 compared to a men’s player’s $263,320. That equates to a meagre 38% of a man’s wage for the same job every year.

“Despite the fact that these female and male players are called upon to perform the same job responsibilities on their teams and participate in international competitions for their single common employer, the USSF, the female players have been consistently paid less money than their male counterparts,” the lawsuit stated. “This is true even though their performance has been superior to that of the male players — with the female players, in contrast to male players, becoming world champions.”

For some time, the U.S Soccer Federation have argued that the revenue generated by the men’s teams is far greater than the women’s team, which accounts for the pay disparity. Bafflingly, they also argue that the women’s team “receive fundamentally different pay structures for performing different work under their separate collective bargaining agreements that require different obligations and responsibilities.” That essentially means that male players are contractors, while female players receive a set salary, even though they’re playing the same game.

Aside from the fact that the women’s team is pulling in more ticket sales than the men’s teams, according to the New York Times, they’ve actually played more games than the men’s team too, due to their success on the pitch. It’s worth pointing out here that the men’s team didn’t even qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

The new data from The Wall St Journal could sway one of the most visible legal battles for equal pay in the USWNT’s favour. No longer can the Federation use revenue to justify a giant pay gap that is, frankly, embarrassingly past it’s sell-by-date. At this point, the refusal to reach parity is looking unmistakably like gender discrimination, seeing as the Federation, according to ESPN, is actually sitting on a surplus of $150 million, meaning that they could easily afford to pay the women’s team equally.

“The event revenue from the USWNT demonstrates the potential that can be realised when investment is made,” Becca Roux, the executive director of the U.S. women’s national team’s players association, told The Wall Street Journal. “While there is still a long way to go, I applaud U.S. Soccer, their partners, and our partners for the new marketing initiatives over the past couple of years. I hope it serves as a case study and example for other federations around the world to emulate.”

With three World Cups, four Olympic gold medals, soaring ticket sales and a world record unmatched by any other women’s team in the world, the time is right for the Federation to address the issue of equal pay once and for all. 

Image: Getty

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Christobel Hastings

Christobel Hastings is a London-based journalist covering pop culture, feminism, LGBTQ and lore.

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