Chants of “equal pay!” rang out across the World Cup stadium after the U.S. Women’s national team (USWNT) clinched their fourth World Cup victory on Sunday. Throughout the tournament, the women of the U.S. national team were dominant – on the pitch and off.
Against the backdrop of seemingly endless goals, pay inequality loomed large on the world stage. A few months before the start of the World Cup, all 28 players on the USWNT filed a lawsuit against their employer, the United States Soccer Federation. The players accuse the U.S. Soccer of practicing “gender-based discrimination against its champion female employees on the [USWNT] in comparison to its less successful male employees.”
Despite winning more World Cups and pulling in more revenue than the men’s national team (this year’s team jersey also broke Nike’s records for the most jerseys sold in one season), the USWNT have significantly less earning potential than men. The max earning potential of women footballers during a World Cup cycle is about $0.23 compared to every dollar their male counterparts can make.
The pay disparity between the men’s and women’s national teams is stark, and is indicative of a pattern of gendered and racialized inequities in pay across our economy. In 2018, women made approximately $0.81 for every dollar men made (some estimates, which take into account workforce attachment, put the number as low as $0.49). When further divided by race, black and Hispanic women made about 65 and 61 cents respectively, compared to white men in 2018.
Pay gaps – on the soccer pitch and off – are indefensible. But these disparities are representative of a much broader set of gendered and racist inequities littered throughout our society. Biases against women and people of color are built into the very architecture of our economy – in the labor market and otherwise – hampering progress for all Americans.