Gender pay gap has remained a persistent inequity, though many decades have passed since pay discrimination was pronounced illegal in the US. Our nation’s story, sadly enough, continues to be replete with discrimination. Women in the US in 2022, on an average, earn 17% less than men. From Lilly Ledbetter to Betty Dukes, and from Kangela Moore to Mika Brzezinski - many a incredible women have been leading the good fight and lending their voices to the “Equal Pay” chant for many years now. While the wage gap has been decreasing, the results have left a lot to still desire for. This movement needed a push - a big resolute push - that can accelerate the time to erase gender pay gap in the US for good. That big resolute push came in earlier this week from the world of soccer, when the US Women’s National Team (USWNT) reached a ground-breaking equal pay settlement.
I recall three years ago the USWNT was celebrated in NYC with a ticker-tape parade after they brought home the World Cup from France. The chants of “Equal Pay! Equal Pay!” reverberated through the streets of Manhattan, following the victorious team wherever they went. Back in 2019 the USWNT had filed a gender equity suit against their own employer - after 3 long years and after millions rallying for their cause - their wish finally came true this month. Not only will appearance fees and bonuses be equalized across the mens and womens teams, they would also split the FIFA World Cup prize money equally - the ultimate soccer tournament that spends roughly 10-15% on the women’s version of the tournament compared to the men’s. This makes US the first country on earth to ever agree to such levels of equity.
But the road to this point hasn’t been easy. USWNT’s victory comes after decades of fight put up by many women to help the nation recognize its women as equally worthy to its men. Soccer is also not the first sport where women have demanded equal pay. From Billie Jean King demanding Title IX legislation and fairer compensation in the “Battle of the Sexes” match against Bobby Riggs to Venus Williams pushing the Grand Slam organizers for equal pay - this victory has been a long time in the making.
Does this victory close the gender pay gap in the US? Far from it. While the USWNT settlement shows some progress in the world of sports, inequities for women in the rest of our society remain. For countless women, such differences in pay have been magnified by COVID19. The closure of schools and day care facilities and even adult cares shifted the caregiving task to women. Women’s labor force participation fell to a three-decade low. Job losses, reduced time for work and limited unemployment benefits have all taken a heavy toll, especially on women. Increased domestic duties and childcare burden have further added on to the pressure.
To truly solve this challenge, all of us, including us men, need to stand up for equality. Closing the gender pay gap may have a big economic benefit for everyone. Poverty rates in women will plunge, and equal pay will also have a dramatic impact on their families, especially children.
This fight is far from over. But the USWNT victory gives me hope. It gives us all hope to get ready to march for equality again. For the sake of all women to come. For the sake of their families, and let’s admit it - for the sake of the men in their lives as well. Everyone benefits from equal pay. Everyone.