In April of this year, five members of the U.S Women’s National Soccer Team filed a wage discrimination suit against U.S. Soccer Federation. Stars like Carli Lloyd, the 2015 FIFA women’s player of the year, formalized a complaint that they have had for years – that women on the national soccer team are paid thousands of dollars less than men at the same level of competition, for every kind of game ranging from exhibition matches to the World Cup. This despite the fact that the women’s team generated more revenue – over $20 million more – than the men’s team, but on average their players earned four times less.
The women’s soccer team is one of the many brave and vocal proponents of gender equality that is taking the problematic issue to the public stage – calling attention to the issue of “equal pay for equal work.”
Ever since John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act in 1963, it has been illegal to pay men more than women for doing the same job. Yet today, when women make up nearly 50% of the workforce and are increasingly making their way into positions traditionally held by men, women still only earn 78% of what their male counterparts earn in the workplace. Like the star athletes in the Women’s World Cup, women in office buildings, restaurants, retail stores, and executive suites across the U.S. are earning a fraction of their male colleagues for putting in the same hours and completing the same tasks.
The issue of equal pay for equal work also extends beyond gender. The pay gap is even worse for minority women, with Black women earning $0.61 and Latina women earning $0.55 cents for every $1.00 earned by their White male counterparts. To put it more concretely, a Latina woman ends up losing out on $25,177 per year, and would have to work 73 years to make what a White, non-Hispanic man makes in 40 years – all for doing the same exact job.
The pay gap is wide – both between genders and between races. Women earn less than their male counterparts, and nearly all minorities earn significantly less than their white counterparts. In this reality, what can we do? There is something to be learned from Carli Lloyd and her colleagues – that this issue is something over which we can all band together. We can support legislation that helps strengthen anti-discrimination laws like the federal Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (signed in 2009) and the Paycheck Fairness Act (still not passed) and other bills proposed at the state and local levels. We can also examine our workplaces for discrepancies, business leaders can ensure fair hiring and pay structures within their own companies, discuss the issue with our friends and family to help make people more aware of the problem–and vocally support our U.S. women’s soccer team!
We are not powerless in this fight. Women and minorities deserve to be properly compensated for their work.