When the 2019 US women’s soccer team won the FIFA World Cup in France on July 7, our country, and much of the world, exalted in celebration. Our women’s team has dominated this sport for decades ever since Brandi Chastain’s winning penalty kick in the 1999 Women’s World Cup and her subsequent magazine covers. People in the US and throughout the world became enamored with the team which elevated women’s soccer to a whole new level with their fan base continually growing.
Each subsequent World Cup, four in all (’91,’99,’15,’19), has elevated the women’s team to new levels of revenue. According to a Wall Street Journal report, in 2016, women’s games generated $1.9 million more in revenue than men’s games. From 2016 to 2018, women’s games generated approximately $50.8 million in revenue, compared with $49.9 million for men’s games. The revenue for the women’s team will no doubt grow in 2019 given this month’s big win.
The women have far exceeded the success of the men’s team who often struggle to qualify for the big game. The July 7th women’s final was the most watched soccer game ever, male or female. And there’s been countless articles written about this team’s success since.
There’s also been numerous articles written about their fight for equal pay. Despite their success, the women are still grossly underpaid in comparison to the men. All 28 members of the current US Women’s National Team (USWNT) filed a class-action lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) on March 8, 2019, which is International Women’s Day. Their goal is to eliminate gender-based discrimination by the USSF. You can see the details of the case here.
Here’s a key detail to give you an idea of what’s covered. The lawsuit states that “…a top women’s player could earn as little as 38% of what a star men’s player earns with a gap of $164,320.” Yes, this is still happening while the women’s team is bringing in more revenue than the men’s team. AND, the men’s team gets paid $5000 each for every game they lose! The women get $0 when they lose. Ludicrous.
To make matters worse, there was a scheduling “error”. Two major men’s soccer finals were scheduled on the same day as the Women’s World Cup. A year ago, the schedulers said that they, “consulted all of the major stakeholders,” most importantly, Major League Soccer (men’s team) and Mexico’s Liga MX (also men’s team), to work out “when would be the best time (for the men’s finals).”
A decision was made to hold two final men’s games on July 7, 2019. When somebody pointed out that there was a conflict with the women’s World Cup final already scheduled on July 7, the primary scheduler (who is male) responded with what was described as a “clerical error.” Bullshit! The male scheduler never even thought to consider the women’s team as a “major stakeholder”. To which star player Megan Rapinoe replied, “that’s exactly the problem.”
Here’s what I love about the actions of the USWNT
So here we are. Still. While I wish it didn’t have to be so hard, these 28 women are elevating the level of consciousness once again around how badass and awesome these female athletes are. They are also making it clear how seriously out of whack it is that the women’s pay is so out of alignment with the value of the franchise.
But here’s what I love about all of this. These women are going to benefit from the class-action lawsuit. They may not get all the way there at once, but they are going to make significant progress as this is a PR nightmare for the USSF (cue a stadium full of supporters cheering, “Equal Pay!”).
Who Else Will Benefit? All of us! Anytime a minority group rises up to get fair and equitable treatment, we all rise up with them.
As women athletes gain further equality, we also create more opportunities for everyone else. Two decades ago, there was no women’s professional soccer league. How many jobs have been created for athletes, sports writers, team trainers, sports marketers and stadium staff as a result of having a women’s soccer league? How many kids, boys and girls, now see that there is a new path that has been revealed for them that didn’t exist before? These 28 women have become heroes to people all over the world.
So, what does this mean for you and your organization?
Megan Rapinoe and the entire team are the new catalysts for inclusion. They are inspiring those excluded or forgotten and reminding all of us to keeping fighting for what is right.
As a leader in your business, whatever your position in the company is, here’s some questions to ask yourself and your organization:
- What is the conversation that needs to happen and what are the actions that need to happen, so that in another 20 years, in 2039, we are not STILL having the same conversation about equitable and fair pay and inclusion for all?
- Are you inviting in opinions and perspectives that are different from your own? If not, what are you missing in your decision-making process? How you will prevent your own version of the “scheduling error?”
- What will you do differently to ensure that ALL people have the opportunity to see someone like themselves in a position of power in your company?
- When someone from an underrepresented group is put into a position of power, do they actually have the power? Are they a true partner who is welcomed and whose ideas are valued?
- What will you do to ensure that ALL people, have equal and fair access to rise up within organizations, to have their ideas heard and acted on?
If you struggle with these questions and do not know how to begin this conversation, I can help. I would love to talk with you. Collectively, we can do our part to bring these conversations into the open, to a more conscious level, and make bigger strides forward in the next 20 years than we have in the last 100 years.
I’d love to hear what you have to say. Leave a comment here or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s all be a part of the solution.
Photo Source www.CBSSports.com