The U.S. women’s soccer team brought politics and economics into their Sunday World Cup victory with demands to be paid equally with male soccer players. In doing so, they are seen as champions for women as well as champions on the field.
They have put renewed focus on the gender pay gap, which though narrowing since 1980 has remained relatively stable over 15 years. According to a Pew Research Center analysis of median hourly earnings of both full- and part-time workers in the United States, women in 2018 earned 85% of what men earned. Based on the estimate, it would take an extra 39 days of work for women to earn what men did in 2018.
By comparison, the Census Bureau found that, in 2017, full-time, year-round working women earned 80% of what their male counterparts earned.
The 2018 wage gap was somewhat smaller for adults ages 25 to 34 than for all workers 16 and older, the Pew analysis found. Women ages 25 to 34 earned 89 cents for every dollar a man in the same age group earned.
Few should argue against closing the wage gap for men and women holding the same or comparable jobs. Though there should be no new governmental mandate that any two workers must be paid equally, there are mandates against discrimination based on sex. That can include pay.
It’s hard to equate professional sports with the jobs of most men and women, but the women’s soccer team’s lawsuit over compensation is going to shed light on gender pay gaps across the board.
The situation is different than in sports such as professional basketball. NBA players make far more money than their WNBA counterparts. The primary reason is demand. The NBA has a major international following. The WNBA has a fraction of the fans and struggles to stay afloat. Should female players be paid on par with the male NBA stars, the league would fold.
The situation with the national soccer teams is not readily comparable.
While stating that more data is needed, The Washington Post's "Fact Checker" column found the women's soccer team may be earning as much money for the U.S. Soccer Federation as the men's team -- or more. And the Post found such a massive disparity in bonus payments that the men get more for losing a World Cup match than the women get for winning one.
And as pointed out by Washington post columnist and Orangeburg native Eugene Robinson, television ratings indicate more U.S. viewers watched Sunday's women’s final match than watched the men's World Cup final last year.
It may take their lawsuit to make it so, but Robinson is on target in writing about the women’s U.S. soccer team: “The soccer federation needs to pay them what they're worth.”
If that amount is equal to or even above what the men are paid, so be it.