Pay the women — they’ve earned it

Rose Lavelle celebrates after scoring during the Women’s World Cup final soccer match between U.S. and the Netherlands in July. Francisco Seco/Associated Press file photo

Standing on top of the couch with our fists raised in the air, my friend and I turned to each other and cheered to our lungs’ full capacity as we watched Rose Lavelle take the winning shot of the Women’s World Cup final. Watching the tournament for the first time this summer and seeing such a raw and powerful display of female strength was inspiring to me, even though I have never played a sport. For people all around the country, the women on the U.S. national soccer team are heroes. They represent the strength, beauty and ability to collaborate that many of us strive to match. The talent and work ethic they exhibit is incredible, and with four World Cup stars on their jerseys, I assumed these women were among the best-paid athletes in the country. I was surprised to learn that I was wrong.

On International Women’s Day in March, 28 members of the women’s team filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against U.S. Soccer, just months before the team won its fourth World Cup championship. Among the plaintiffs are the team’s three captains, who claim the team is not only paid significantly less than their male counterparts, but they are not treated as well with respect to travel arrangements and medical care, among other factors.

The common counterargument to the pay disparity between the men’s and women’s team is that men produce more revenue and attract more viewers. However, the Women’s National Team victory at the World Cup in 2015 was the most watched soccer game in American history, and the team has brought in more profits than the men’s team in the three years since the victory; the women brought in $1.9 million more in 2016 alone. Yet the women earned close to $2 million in bonuses after their World Cup win, whereas men received more than $5 million for simply making it to the first round of the 2014 World Cup. The men didn’t qualify for the 2018 event.

In terms of success and achievement, the women’s team takes the men’s by a mercy rule, but treatment of the Women’s National Team by the U.S Soccer Federation does not reflect players’ consistent talent and commendable courage.

Unfortunately, this gender pay gap goes far beyond the soccer field. A recent study from Pew Research Center shows that 1 in 4 women make less money than their male colleagues with the same job title and amount of professional experience. According to the study, in 2018 women earned 85 percent of what men earned — which means it would take an extra 39 days of work for women to earn the same as men.

And for women hoping to earn a salary increase, only 15 percent of those who ask are given a raise, reports say. For men, it’s 20 percent.

Watching the women’s victory over the Netherlands this summer in Lyon, France, was a testament to women’s strength and resilience in the face of injustice. From the stands, onlookers shouted, “Equal pay! Equal pay! Equal pay!” — a demand not only for the female soccer players, but for all women around the world who are paid less than their male counterparts.

I think it’s time we shatter the glass ceiling. It’s time the contributions of women are valued equally with those of men, in and out of the sports world. And it’s time to kick pay inequality out of the stadium and level the playing field for women and men.

Emma Lawrence is a senior at Santa Fe Prep. Contact her at elawrence@sfprep.org