Women's soccer supporters back call for equal pay
‘They’re the best in the world, but the next step is to pay them like it’
By Ted Cox
CHICAGO — Self-described “fans” and “advocates” of the World Cup-winning U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team delivered petitions signed by 200,000 people to the U.S. Soccer Federation Tuesday calling for equal pay between men and women players.
“We’re here in solidarity with the U.S. Women’s National Team because we love them and because equal pay is just right,” said Susan Hildebrand, speaking for grassroots groups including ultraviolet, MoveOn, Credo, Planned Parenthood of Illinois, Women’s March Illinois, and Women Employed.
“Despite the team’s amazing success, they still make significantly less than the men’s team,” Hildebrand added. “It’s just not right.”
“Paying women less than men for the same work is unfair,” said Maria Tchijov of MoveOn. “Paying women less than men for demonstrably stronger results is even worse.”
“Paying women less than men for the same work is unfair. Paying women less than men for demonstrably stronger results is even worse.”
Maria Tchijov of MoveOn (One Illinois/Ted Cox)
The U.S. women won their fourth World Cup last week, while the U.S. men’s soccer team has never won a World Cup and didn’t even qualify for the most recent tournament last year.
Members of the women’s team were granted the right to sue the federation earlier this year by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and filed a suit claiming that men were paid four times more in bonuses for losing in the round of 16 in the 2014 men’s World Cup than women were paid for winning the World Cup a year later. The case is now under mediation.
The federation has cited that the World Cup purse for the women’s tournament is $30 million, dwarfed by the $400 million amassed for the men’s tournament. But Hildenbrand pointed out, “The U.S. women’s team also brings in significant revenue,” far outpacing the men’s team in jersey sales and in ticket sales over the last three years. The Guardian recently reported that the pay gap persists.
“The sexism displayed against them would never happen to the male players,” said Greta Lindall, a seventh-grade soccer player at Chicago’s Skinner North Classical School. “The members of the women’s team are heroes. You can’t criticize their skill. They’re the best in the world. But the next step is to pay them like it.
“U.S. Soccer’s arguments against paying women the same as men are just excuses for holding on to beliefs that are outdated and wrong,” she added. “This issue should have been addressed a long time ago.”
Lindall said, “We know the pay gap is real in workplaces throughout America,” and many have seized on the women’s World Cup victory and their demand for equal pay as representative of a pay gap between men and women in the larger society.
U.S. Sens. Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin made a point of backing their demand for equal pay in a resolution last week applauding the team for its World Cup victory.
“We actually want to thank them for using their platform to speak out loudly and publicly for women’s pay equality, demanding the equal pay they deserve and all women deserve,” said Cherita Ellens, chief executive officer of Women Employed. “Pay equality is a problem that deserves to be on the world stage.”
She said the pay gap — estimated that women make 78 to 82 cents on the dollar compared to what men make for the same work — has leveled off over the last decade, and “recent studies show that the gap is widening, not decreasing.”
According to Hildebrand, a woman will typically earn $400,000 less than a man with the same training and education over the course of their careers, and that “pay gap … is significantly bigger for women of color.”
“This slow rate of change is unacceptable,” Ellens said. “Women are paid less than men in nearly every industry, every occupation, and at all levels.”
The U.S. Soccer Federation has its headquarters in a historic Chicago mansion at 1801 S. Prairie Ave., where activists delivered the petitions Tuesday.