Gender wage gaps in sports continue to miss the goal

The US women's soccer team win shows how female athletes are unfairly pushed aside

Women’s sports teams sometimes outperform their male counterparts without sufficient reward.
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Viewers from around the globe watched in awe on July 7 as the US women’s national soccer team took the World Cup for the second year running, defeating their competitors from the Netherlands. Co-Captain Megan Rapinoe hoisted the cup high and posed proudly for photos as adoring cheers rang out from the stands.

However, what should have been a period of celebration for the team was quickly overshadowed by tabloid debates, social media gossip, and the team’s own lawsuit against the United States Soccer Federation.

Why? Because the team was composed of hardworking, super-powered, and underpaid women.

According to a CNN article breaking down the US women’s national soccer team’s March 2019 lawsuit against their federation, known as US Soccer, the team—shown to be popular and capable—still receives a mediocre paycheck compared to the men’s national soccer team.

The women’s team has won four World Cup tournaments—out of eight total—while the men’s team hasn’t made the top three since 1930. The women’s team has won four Olympic gold medals, while the men’s team hasn’t graced the Olympic podium in more than one hundred years.

Whereas the women’s team made US Soccer a profit in the 2018 fiscal year, the men’s team suffered a deficit of more than $3.5 million. All the same, the men’s team is paid nearly triple per average winning game than the women’s team, according to FiveThirtyEight.

Ideas of equality and representation aside, it’s clear from these numbers that men’s teams are not always superior to their female counterparts. The women’s soccer team consistently outperforms the men’s team and gained immense popularity on the international stage without seeing any reward for their efforts.

When it comes to the debate about the salaries of female and male sports stars, many people turn to an economic argument to show that the revenue for men’s sports—thanks to advertising, televising, and larger fanbases—is higher, and therefore pay is higher.

But when a female team makes its federation more money than the male team, what argument is left for underpaying them?

This is also an issue of proportional payment. The US Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) pays its players, at most, 22.8 per cent of its revenue, while the NBA’s male players are given half of its revenue. This means that even when you take into account that the WNBA has fewer viewers, its players are still being paid inequitably.

Take women’s hockey as another example. The New York Times reported that despite winning the last three World Championships and taking home gold in the 2018 Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, the US women’s hockey team members were hardly paid enough to constitute a living wage and were given virtually no marketing attention.

North American sports belong to a projected $73.5-billion industry with viewers around the world. The industry represents some of the best athletes and most successful teams worldwide.

It isn’t absurd to ask for women to be given the financial support they deserve to continue playing at the high level we expect from them.

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