Gender Pay Gap in Sports is More of An Issue After Women's World Cup Win

The U.S. Women's National Soccer Team's back-to-back World Cup victories and players' accompanying campaign for equal pay has significantly altered public perception about the gender pay gap in sports, per the results of a new survey.

Thirty-five percent of U.S. adults believe the gender pay gap in sports is more of an issue after the women's team earned their fourth World Cup title earlier this month, according to a poll released this week by Morning Consult and women's empowerment organization ASCEND.

On the path to their record-setting win, many USWNT players publicly advocated for equal pay compared to the less-successful men's national team, and supporters mobilized behind the campaign. Hundreds of fans marched to the women's quarterfinal game calling for a balanced economic playing field. As FIFA President Gianni Infantino stepped onto the field to bestow championship medals on the U.S. players after beating The Netherlands in the final match, the crowd chanted "equal pay."

The campaign for equal pay, which the women have been fighting for years and has involved legal action against the U.S. Soccer Federation, has also spurred action by lawmakers. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed equal pay legislation at the World Cup celebration parade held in Manhattan. Earlier this week, U.S. House representatives introduced a bill that would block federal funding from the 2026 men's World Cup — which the U.S. is jointly hosting with Mexico and Canada — until the women's team is given "fair and equitable wages."

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The women's unyielding advocacy for more equitable pay conditions appears to have shifted public opinion, albeit with notable demographic differences among whose opinion was swayed. While 50 percent of Democrats said that the women's win changed views on the issue, only 25 percent of Republicans and 27 percent of Independents agreed. Women were more likely to think that the sports gender gap was more of an issue after the World Cup victory, with 37 percent holding this stance, compared with 32 percent of men.

The increased focus on the gender pay gap in sports has renewed attention on the disparity in pay for professional athletes. Forbes' 2019 list for the highest-paid athletes, which is visibly male-dominated, helped convey the disparity in earnings. The outlet reported that, among all athletes, only female tennis players are among the top global earners.

Gender pay disparity issues persist across leagues and sports. Salary.com noted that male leagues often generate higher revenue but, "even adjusting for revenue, we find that female athletes are still being short-changed."

The compensation disparity has led female athletes to fight for more equitable pay.

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The women's National Ice Hockey Team threatened to boycott the 2017 world championship over a pay dispute. CNN Business reported at the time that men were allowed to bring guests to world championship games, while women weren't, and that women had to share rooms. In addition, men flew in business class, while the women's team flew in economy class. The boycott threat eventually paid off, with USA Hockey providing the women's team travel and insurance agreements equal to those received by the men.

Even with some recent progress, like that earned by the hockey team, for female athletes who play on teams, salaries have often remained a fraction of what their male colleagues earn. Forbes reported in 2017 that the NBA pays its players about 50 percent of league revenue but that WNBA players appear to be receiving "less than 25% of the revenue." The outlet reported last year that the top WNBA salary last year was $117,500 — a far cry from the $37.4 million paid to Stephen Curry, the highest-paid NBA player.

The vast sports gender pay gap has helped to illuminate a broader economic issue facing American women, who still only earn $0.79 for every dollar made by men in the U.S. Even when women have the same job titles and qualifications as men, they earn $0.98 for every dollar.

USWNT
Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, Allie Long and the team celebrate U.S. Women's National Soccer Team victory at New York City Hall on July 10. John Lamparski/WireImage
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