By Sierra Ryan and Alejandra Hernandez
Although many female athletes are representing their country in the Women’s World Cup, the reality is that many of their teammates have decided not to play because of the wage gap between women and men players.
For the United States Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT), the battle for equal pay goes back to 2017 when they came to an agreement with the U.S. Soccer Federation on a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA). In 2019 the players sued the U.S. Soccer for gender discrimination which had been discussed in the CBA of 2017.
Finally, around February 2022, the U.S. Soccer Federation agreed to pay its men’s and women’s national teams the same amounts for all games and competitions and split prize money from World Cup appearances. This was where the most significant pay gap was noticed.
“When the men earn $2.5 million as a team for qualifying and the women earn only $750,000 for the same thing,” according to ESPN. “During World Cup qualifiers, the men can earn up to $18,125 per player in the final round for each win, but the women get only $3,000 per player for each win.”
“We see that [female] team sports were often regulated to almost a second tier in the wage gap. We’ve seen that throughout history, even to be recognized in the male-dominated sports realm, you have to participate in the first place. Then you have to be seen as a legitimate athlete on par with male athletes, “ said Carly Gieseler, a gender studies professor at York College. “Certainly, marketing and branding/sponsorships always help a little bit. The [USWNT] have battled to show they are as deserving as their male counterparts.”
The fight for equal pay has spread to other sports. The New York Times says “In recent years, players, teams and even athletes in other sports — ice hockey Olympic gold medalists, Canadian soccer pros and W.N.B.A. players — had reached out to the American soccer players and their union for help as they sought better pay and working conditions.”
Professional female mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters earn less than their male peers, and they often have to take on their forms of work to help with their income. With women soccer athletes fighting for equal pay, it has caused female MMA players to do the same.
“The conversation around equal pay in professional sports has gained steam since U.S. women’s soccer team members sued the U.S. Soccer Federation in March, arguing that their pay and working conditions amounted to gender discrimination,” according to the World Economic Forum.
“I think the fans dictate [the representation of women in MMA],” said Matt Derosa, an amateur MMA instructor. “I think there is a big appeal to watching women beat each other up. That’s why you see them there because they are making money for the people that put on these shows. If the fans probably want to see the [MMA] men [fighters] more, if that’s the case, men are going to get paid more. It’s about making money.”
“MMA is like working a commission-based job, so whoever brings in more interest gets paid more money as opposed to a salary job,” Derosa continued.
Both women athletes in soccer and MMA have shown that their level of intensity and commitment to the sports are equal to men. The bottom line is to realize the unfairness behind the unequal pay between men and women, especially when they are doing the same job.
The Women’s World Cup is set to start July 20, 2023, through August 20, 2023, at venues around Australia and New Zealand. Each group has four teams, with 32 national teams playing.