Speak Up for Gender Equality (aka #EqualPlayEqualPay)

By Eliza Pohle, LiveGirl Mentor (New Canaan High School Senior)

Across the world, the United States is known as the land of opportunity and equality and we pride ourselves on the rights we guarantee to all American citizens. However, when you look under the surface, there is a gap that reveals inequality. Although women in the United States are granted more rights than women in other countries, they do not have the same rights that men are guaranteed. One of the major points of inequality is pay disparity between men and women in the workforce. Even though America is known as a country of equality, there is still a wage gap that reveals the inequality between men and women.

As of 2015, women earned only 83% of what men did (Brown, 2017). Although this gap is closing, it is still a topic that separates women from men in the workforce and has brought up protests from women across the country. A prime example of this is the Women’s National soccer team. The team has been one of the most successful teams in the United States, earning gold medals in three World Cups and four Olympics (O’Donnell, 2016). Despite this success, the women continue to be underpaid. For example, Hope Solo, the starting goalie for the Women’s National team, was paid $366,000 for playing in 23 games in 2015. In comparison, Tim Howard, the starting goalie for the Men’s National Team, was paid $398,495 for playing in only eight games in 2015 (O’Donnell, 2016). The women’s team is ranked number one in the world, while the men’s team lags far behind, coming in at number 24 (O’Donnell, 2016). For winning the Women’s World Cup, the women earned an estimated $1.8 million. If the men were to win the World Cup in 2018, it is estimated they would earn $9.3 million (Santhanam, 2016). The part that really doesn’t make sense is the profitability of each program. The women’s team is projected to bring in a total of $22 million, compared to the men who will bring in about half of this value (Santhanam, 2016). The women’s team has also drawn a lot of attention to the sport, as their World Cup Final game was the most watched English speaking broadcast of a soccer game ever (Thomas, 2016).

On March 29, 2016, the Women’s National Soccer team filed an official complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the US Soccer Federation (Santhanam, 2016). However, in June 2016, their complaint was dismissed because the EEOC believed the US Soccer Federation was doing everything they could to protect the equal rights of the women (McCann, 2016). So, the women embarked on a campaign (#EqualPlayEqualPay) to galvanize public support as they continued contract negotiations with the US Soccer Federation (Das, 2017). On April 5, 2017, the women finalized a deal with the US Soccer Federation, after nearly a year of fighting. This deal included wage increases, along with a raise in match bonuses and better travel benefits (Adamczyk, 2017). With this deal, women have taken a step towards pay equality. But more needs to be done.

Yes, women in the United States should enjoy the rights that other international women do not have, such as the ability to drive, but we should also leverage our freedom of speech and play a leadership role in advocating for gender equality. The women’s soccer team proves that change will occur when we stand up and speak out. So girls, who’s with me? It’s time for a change.

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PHOTO: Members of the U.S. women’s soccer team are using the slogan “Equal Play Equal Pay” to promote their wage fight. From left, Alex Morgan, Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd and Becky Sauerbrunn.