Back in 2022, the U.S. Soccer Federation agreed to a landmark deal awarding equal pay for the women and men of the US National Soccer teams. The move helped move other women’s leagues the same direction towards equity in pay and beyond.
The USWNT has long been associated with leading the way in the fight for gender equity in soccer. Most recently, in advance of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France, the United States women’s squad took a stand against institutionalized gender discrimination against the team.
The women’s team has far exceeded the success of their male counterparts, who failed to even qualify for the FIFA Men’s World Cup in 2018. Meanwhile, the women have placed in the top three teams in every Women’s World Cup since 1991 (when the women’s tournament began) and has three titles. In the six Olympic Games that have included women’s soccer, the U.S. has captured four golds and a silver.
“It’s a heavy responsibility, but it’s one that we gladly take on,” stated Becky Sauerbraunn. “And it’s something we’re going to keep trying to push and push and push until we feel that everything is equal. That’s far away from here, but that’s what we’re fighting toward.”
WNBA and Pay Equity
WNBA stars including A’ja Wilson, Liz Cambage and Skylar Diggins-Smith have all spoken out about WNBA salaries compared to their NBA counterparts. To make a living playing basketball, most WNBA players compete overseas during the offseason to supplement their WNBA income.
It is important to note that the WNBA athletes are not asking for the multimillion dollar contracts that are prevalent in the NBA, rather simply asking for equity. Where the NBA pays its players between 49-51 percent of the league’s revenue, WNBA players take home a maximum of 22.8 percent.
“As athletes, we have to fight. As women, we have to fight,” stated Diggins-Smith. “And we need more people at our table to fight with us. There need to be more women and more people of color hired so we can curate our own sports stories. And we need men speaking out about these things.”
Closing the Pay Gap
Closing the gender pay gap in sport requires a series of mindset shifts, which together will make a profound difference. First and foremost, it starts with a genuine commitment to gender equality across the entire sports ecosystem. Equal investment in female participation in sport, development pathways and payment for elite women athletes will deliver exponential benefits to our economy, society and our collective wellbeing.
Achieving pay equity in sport also requires equal investment in women's sport participation, development — and coverage so that men and women's sport is valued equally.