Social Justice

Would Winning the World Cup Make a Difference for Gender Equality?

Piotr Piasecki

Piotr Piasecki, and his classmates in the Master of Arts in Counseling: Specialization in Sport and Human Performance program in Chicago, use their focus on sport and health psychology to advocate for social justice in the sport field. With the final games of the FIFA Women’s World Cup fast approaching, Piasecki shares his thoughts on the U.S. Women’s National Team’s fight for gender equality and equal pay.

We’re well into the FIFA Women’s World Cup, which is taking place in France. The competition allows 24 teams to participate on the world stage. The U.S. Women’s National Team came off to a roaring start with a 13 – 0 win over Thailand. To some critics, it was disrespectful to run the score up so high, while others celebrated extensively all the way up to their final goal.

But there is much more that lies behind the win over Thailand and qualifying for the quarter-finals for the U.S. team. Months before the tournament, a few players declared that they wouldn’t go as a protest regarding the gender discrimination they have received from the U.S. Soccer Federation. Instead, as a united front, the team decided to take a different route: they filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation, accusing it of gender discrimination.

The issue of unequal pay has been around for years now. And the U.S. women’s team has not taken the pressure off of U.S. Soccer one bit. The Women’s National Team produces much better results than the Men’s National Team, with three World Cup titles under their belt and a favorite to win this year’s World Cup in France. The women compete at the highest level of women’s soccer in the world and the governing body of American soccer continues to refuse to pay them more and provides fewer resources for them. According to CNBC, the maximum wage per game for women during their success in 2015 to 2018 was $4,950 while the men’s maximum wage per game was $13,166. Due to the women’s success they also would play on average 22 games per year, in contrast the men playing 17 games a year.

Three years ago, four athletes on the women’s team filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Afterwards, nothing changed. They filed, and no action was taken. This tends to happen across the board, not only in women’s soccer, but in other areas of sport and professional positions. We all know about the glass ceiling. The country of Iceland even recently declared it illegal to pay men higher wages than women in the country. That seems to be a far-off future in the U.S., unfortunately.

If being defending World Cup champions doesn’t impact this quest, it seems like it will be a never-ending battle for these women. It’s disturbing that their performance needs to speak for them, such as the 13 – 0 win over Thailand, 3 – 0 win over Chile, and 2-1 win over Spain. If winning another World Cup is what it takes for the U.S. Soccer Federation to finally take a step in eliminating gender discrimination, I hope the U.S. women’s team can clinch that victory.

The positive side to the story: the U.S. Soccer Federation and the U.S. Women’s National Team agreed to participate in mediation once the tournament ends. This means that both sides will discuss a proposed solution in private, which will be done with a mediator who will listen to both perspectives and will be required to thoroughly review every angle. Until then, let’s get behind the U.S. Women’s National Team and support them on the field and off in their fight for equality.