It’s been a month since Team USA claimed the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup with a 2-0 victory over the Netherlands. The squad’s dominance throughout the tournament reignited the national conversation on the gender pay gap. When the team was honored with a parade through Lower Manhattan to celebrate its second consecutive World Cup title, fans chanted, “Equal pay!” referring to the fact that the United States Soccer Federation, which employs the men’s and women’s national team members, has long paid men more money.
Once the confetti was swept up, however, and the TV and radio appearances ran their course, so did the conversation about equal pay among men and women in the workforce.
How did this happen? Where did that momentum go? It seems that because of Team USA’s success, we, as a society, deemed it an appropriate time to raise the ongoing issue of the gender pay gap in the U.S. The problem is that the sheer excitement and drama of the American women’s victories couldn’t help but overshadow the less sexy topic of salaries in a nation with a woefully short attention span thanks to the what’s-next mentality of much of the media.
Just imagine what might have happened if there had been no parade — if the U.S. squad had lost in the finals, or in an earlier round. The issue might have disappeared from public debate altogether, as we moved on even more quickly than we did, looking toward the next highlight of the summer sports calendar.
It should be noted that in the world of international soccer, there is a practical reason for the wage gap between men and women: The men’s game generates much more revenue through television deals and corporate sponsorships, which FIFA disburses to the national federations.
But among American soccer stars — as is the case in all of the other jobs and careers in this country — there’s no reason for a glaring wage gap to continue to exist in 2019.
The average woman working full time earns 80.7 cents for every dollar a man working full time earns, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In addition, women’s median annual earnings are about $10,000 less than men’s. On top of that, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research reported in 2017 that based on the gradual change rate for earnings of men and women, the gender wage gap in the United States will not close until 2059.
If we want to show young girls that they can be strong, independent women, trends like this have to change sooner than later.
There is hope, however. The cultural climate on issues such as gender discrimination and equal pay is shifting, and it seems that there is more awareness of them now than ever before. We are seeing the trend in politics, with more women, for example, serving in the U.S. Congress than ever: 102 in the House of Representative and 25 in the Senate. Adding to this historical trend is the six women among the two dozen candidates seeking to be the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee in 2020.
Unfortunately, disparities persist. A 2018 study titled “Women in the Workplace,” by management consulting company McKinsey & Company, revealed the gap in managerial positions between men and women. It concluded that many companies have deprived women of career opportunities by failing to hire and promote them. Women are less likely to be hired into entry-level jobs despite the fact that they earn more bachelor’s degrees than men. And if you look further up the career ladder, the disparity grows, because women are far less likely to be promoted. It’s no surprise that men hold 62 percent of managerial positions.
We are making strides, but keeping up the dialogue is key. And this particular topic should be more personal, one we all must take responsibility for engaging in. The World Cup may be fading to a supremely satisfying memory, but those chants of “Equal pay!” should not be allowed to. The subject should still be trending on social media, and it should remain a focus of news outlets and many other editorial pages, because there are countless untold stories about the lasting effects of unequal pay. If we don’t make the effort to continue this national discussion, the issue will continue to take a back seat in American society.