Why Equal Pay for U.S. Women Soccer Players is Important

By Tim Pershing

The fight for recognition and higher pay is nothing new for American soccer players, both men and women. That’s why it is so sad for those who have supported the sport over the last three decades to see what is happening now. Just as American soccer was earning respect as a viable, money-making endeavor, all the progress has become overshadowed by wage disputes, allegations of inferior playing conditions and outright sexism by some of the highest ranking FIFA officials.

It should go without saying that women and men should get equal pay for equal work. It is a concept so fundamentally fair and just that it defies logic how it is even an issue in 2016. Yet, with five key members of the United States Women’s National Team filing an EEOC complaint alleging wage discrimination against the United States Soccer Federation, it is an all too real blight on gender issues in the 21st century.  The suit brought by FIFA Women’s Player of the Year Carli Lloyd, Becky Sauerbrunn, Hope Solo, Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe highlights the sad state of not only the pay gap in women’s sports but in many other professions as well.

I think that we’ve proven our worth over the years. Just coming off of a World Cup win, the pay disparity between the men and women is just too large. And we want to continue to fight.
— Carli Lloyd, speaking on NBC’s Today show

It’s laughable to suggest that women don’t give as much as men, on and off the field. The fields are the same (except when turf is substituted for grass), the duration is the same, the schedules are the same. Equal. The one thing that isn’t equal is the success rate of the teams in international play. There is no question that the women are the far more successful team but that doesn’t seem to matter to the U.S. Soccer Federation.

When considering how much the Women’s National Team means to the American fans, especially girls who look up to them as role models, it would seem obvious that the women and men should be supported equally. One of the greatest sports moments in the last century occurred when Brandi Chastain ripped a left-footed penalty kick past Chinese goalkeeper Gao Hong at the Rose Bowl to win the 1999 World Cup in front of a sold-out crowd of over 90,000 screaming soccer fans. That moment in American sports history cannot be underestimated.

Equal pay for equal work should be a fundamental principle of our economy. It’s the idea that whether you’re a high school teacher, a business executive or a professional soccer player or tennis player, your work should be equally valued and rewarded, whether you are a man or a woman.
— President Barack Obama

The U.S. women’s team has been consistently the most dominant team in the world for the past 25 years. No small feat in global sports, and yet they are still relegated to the back of the line when it comes to cashing in on that performance.

I would rather watch the U.S. women play at this point than the men. Who is subsidizing whom? And why should it matter? It’s U.S. soccer. It’s one body. One nation. One team. Or at least that’s what the U.S. Federation wants us to believe. We should be united in our goal of lifting up all athletes, regardless of gender, into the equal pay range we know they deserve. Doing so lifts up the sport as a whole.

Women’s professional sports are still relatively new compared to men’s sports. Of course it takes time to build up team loyalties and professional programs, but it is also important to provide athletes and teams with the funding necessary for success. In a recent National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) game between the Western New York Flash and the Seattle Reign, the game was played on a makeshift pitch placed in the outfield of a baseball field. The playing space ended up being undersized and was not only an insult to the players but also to the sport. NWSL players have also complained about substandard hotel accommodations that included bed bugs and mold. This is no way to treat professional athletes, some of whom helped secure a World Cup win in 2015. When forced to play on undersized field or on artificial turf or when provided with unacceptable accommodations, how can professional women athletes be expected to help grow the sport?

And what is this saying to all the girls who want to grow up strong, happy and equal in all aspects of the law? When we do not pay and treat professional women athletes the same as their male counterparts, the message is that women’s sports are just not as important. This benefits no one.

There are many arguments to both sides of the issue and while the specifics of the money involved may never be truly known, it shouldn’t matter. The U.S. Soccer Federation should have worked with the team instead of brushing them aside. When the women’s team members ask for equal pay, they aren’t looking for a fight, they aren’t looking to grandstand and they aren’t trying to be greedy. They are just asking for what they deserve. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Tim Pershing is the co-founder and director of Pacific Reentry Career Services, a new nonprofit that helps formerly incarcerated women find meaningful employment.

Understanding the Basic Definitions of Gender, Sex and Sexual Orientation

By Stephanie Hammerwold

People in the U.S. have been talking about gender and sexual orientation quite a bit in the last few years. There have been huge strides made with the recent Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage, and people like Laverne Cox and Caitlyn Jenner have brought visibility to transgender identities. As such, there is quite a bit of terminology floating around regarding gender, sex and sexual orientation. The more we understand what these things mean, the better equipped we are to be accepting of others.

Keep in mind that there are variations on how people define these terms and what identities mean to individuals, so I encourage you to read more on this subject after you finish this post.

Gender, Sex & Sexual Orientation—What’s the Difference?

The terms gender and sex are often used interchangeably even though they have different meanings. Sex is based on biological characteristics, such as anatomy and X and Y chromosomes. We typically think of sex as male or female, but it is not that simple. Intersex people, for example, are born with characteristics that do not easily fit our typical definitions of male and female.

Gender is how we express ourselves and represent our identity. Gender identity is specifically who we internally feel ourselves to be. This could be a man, woman or anything in between. Gender expression is how we demonstrate that identity. Words like femininity and masculinity represent gender expression. This could be everything from how we dress, speak and externally show our gender. It is helpful to think of gender on a continuum that represents the many ways we express ourselves. Most people are not 100% feminine or masculine but instead draw from traits that are associated with both those identities.

Traditionally gender has been thought of in a binary way—either a person was a man or a woman. There was no room for anything in between. As I said, the reality is that most people do not fit neatly into either category of the gender binary, which is why it is useful to think of a continuum. Keep in mind that our place on the continuum is not fixed, and throughout life, we may shift in where we fall in terms of both gender identity and expression.

The term cisgender describes someone whose sex, gender identity and gender expression are all in alignment. Transgender is a broad term that refers to people whose gender identity and/or expression does not match the cultural expectations of the sex they were assigned at birth. A common question about transgender individuals is what pronouns should be used. This is a personal choice and varies from person to person, so be respectful of what pronouns a person wants used. GLAAD has an excellent article on this topic.

Sexual Orientation refers to who someone is romantically and physically attracted to. This includes things like gay, lesbian, bisexual and straight. As with gender, sexual orientation is not fixed and may change throughout life. Being a specific gender does not imply a set sexual orientation. For example, if a transgender individual transitions from male to female, it does not mean they will automatically switch their sexual orientation as well.

Intersectionality & Complex Identities

One of the big advantages of all the media attention transgender individuals are receiving is that it is showing us examples of how complex identity can be. There is not just one way to be a man or a woman or transgender, and things become even more dynamic when you start including race, ethnicity, nationality, religion and more in the mix. Intersectionality is a way to think of how all these parts of identity interact on multiple levels. This concept helps move us away from thinking of identity categories as monolithic. Instead, it is a reminder of just how diverse the experience of being a woman, a man or transgender is depending on other parts of identity.

It is important to talk about this topic on a workplace blog because we spend a large amount of time at work. If we are going to value our employees, we need to foster environments where employees are comfortable regardless of how they identify. Most companies have some kind of policy against discrimination and harassment, and it is vital that such policies underlie everything we do not only in the workplace but also in our daily lives.