Opinion: Women can’t match men’s pay, even if they’re Olympic athletes on the national soccer team
As women, mothers and members of Congress, we are dedicated to achieving equal pay for equal work for people of all genders. But even our world-class female athletes are getting shortchanged. We refuse to let this injustice stand.
As the U.S. women’s national soccer team begins its fight for the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics, we are fighting for the team in Congress by introducing a resolution calling for these athletes to be paid equally to their male counterparts.
Since 1991, the women’s national team has been the most successful international soccer team in the world, securing four World Cup titles and four Olympic gold medals. Given their remarkable success, the stars of our national soccer team should be among the best-compensated athletes in the world. Disgracefully, this is not the case.
Rare achievements, common struggles
Despite vastly outperforming their male counterparts, by one measure, players on the women’s national team bring home only 89 cents for every dollar paid to men, and earn far less in prize money and bonuses for the wins they keep racking up for our country.
While the achievements of the women’s national team have been extraordinary, their workplace struggles – for equal pay for equal work, child care and paid leave – are commonplace for women across the country.
Women's median weekly earnings amount to 82 cents for every dollar paid to men. The gender pay gap is even worse for many women of color. For every dollar paid to white men, median pay for Latinas is just 55 cents. It's 60 cents for Native American women, 63 cents for Black women and as little as 52 cents, with an average of 85 cents, for Asian American and Pacific Islander women.
A lifetime of lower wages has cascading consequences for women, who end up with fewer assets, more debt and less money saved for retirement than men.
The pay gap for the women’s national team has nothing to do with the team’s performance. The women’s national team has amassed more viewers, sold more tickets and generated more revenue for the U.S. Soccer Federation than the men’s team.
They have made our country proud time and time again – largely because of them, soccer is now on track to become America’s third most popular spectator sport.
The players of the women’s national team are a source of national pride, and wage discrimination against them has become a source of national outrage. That is why, when the women’s team won the World Cup in 2019, crowds chanted “Equal Pay” along with “USA.”
The experience of these players underscores an inescapable fact: Even the most successful and highly visible women cannot overcome the gender wage gap. March 24, marked Women’s Equal Pay Day – which signals how far into the new year the average woman must work to earn as much as the average man in the previous year.
Change laws to expand opportunities
On that day, soccer star Megan Rapinoe testified powerfully before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform in support of equal pay: “There is no level of status, and there's no accomplishment or power that will protect you from the clutches of inequality. One cannot simply outperform inequality or be excellent enough to escape discrimination of any kind.”
The historic success of the women’s national team proves what is possible when we change our laws to foster rather than limit women’s potential. Past reforms like Title IX were crucial to making more opportunities available for women to excel in sports, but we must do more. In addition to fighting for equal pay, we are committed to investing in public child care and ensuring access to paid family leave. These are crucial steps to level the playing field and remove longstanding barriers so that all women can excel in the workplace.
We are introducing this resolution because everyone, regardless of their gender, deserves fair and equal compensation for their work. Players on the women’s national team proudly represent our nation on the world’s stage. They are role models for girls and women everywhere. Not only because they fight for victory on the field, but also because they fight for equality off the field.
So while the world watches the U.S. women’s national team compete at the Tokyo Games, it is our duty to ensure they earn their most important and consequential victory yet – equal pay here at home.
Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (@RepMaloney), D-N.Y., chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (@rosadelauro), D-Conn., chairs the House Appropriations Committee. Rep. Doris Matsui (@DorisMatsui), D-Calif., is a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.