The U.S. women's national soccer team has won four Olympic gold medals and, this month, they'll go for a fifth. They are also taking part in an even more arduous competition. Namely, since filing a wage-discrimination complaint in March, the women have been fighting to receive the same pay as their male counterparts.
It is indisputable that the women's team has enjoyed more on-the-field success. In addition to their Olympic medals, they have won three World Cup titles and seven CONCACAF Gold Cups. Generally speaking, the men's team is applauded whenever they make it as far as a tournament's quarterfinals stage. What comes as a surprise to many is that the women also generate higher profits for the U.S. Soccer Federation. In 2015, they turned a profit of $6.6 million, versus under $2 million from the men's team.
So why aren't they being paid equally? And how big is the disparity?
How the U.S. Soccer Federation defends its actions
The wage gap primarily affects role players. While the top-paid players from each team both clear a bit over a million dollars (although the women's highest earner takes in about $180,000 less than the men's highest earner), players further down the roster collect far less. Since 2008, the 50th-highest-paid player on the men's side has earned nearly $250,000, which is almost ten times more than the 50th-highest-paid player on the women's side, who earned just over $25,000.
Yet the U.S. Soccer Federation defends how it disburses payment. The organization notes that, simply put, the men play a tougher schedule. For example, the women play five games to qualify for the World Cup, while the men must play 16. As such, the federation maintains, the men deserve higher compensation.
The women have support from the U.S. senate
Nevertheless, some payment practices are clearly unfair. The men receive a bonus for every game played; the women, meanwhile, only take home bonuses for wins. The women also receive lower per diems and sponsor appearance fees.
As reported in The Huffington Post, such unequal treatment has lately prompted U.S. senators to take action-a group of Democrats introduced a resolution to guarantee equal pay. The politicians are also investigating the case on their own, demanding payment information from the federation. Meanwhile, the attorney for the women's players warns that the federation is apt to provide only distorted statistics.
The U.S. women are favorites to win the Olympics yet again this month. Their real challenge, it seems, will emerge when play is over.