Tonight, CBS’s 60 Minutes presented an expose on America’s national women’s soccer team and their fight for pay equality with the men’s team.
Carli Lloyd, a FIFI Women’s World Cup Champion and two-time Olympic Gold Medalist told 60 Minutes: “We feel like we’re treated like second-class citizens, because they don’t care as much about us as they do the men.”
Two years ago, the team hired a lawyer, Rich Nichols, to address their grievances. Nichols says that they currently make significantly less than the men’s team (roughly one-third as much) despite the fact that they have the “same employer, same job, same work conditions, same everything.”
All they want, according to Nichols is “the same money that the men are making, exactly. That’s $5,000 minimum—that’s that $8,000 bonus if you tie a game, and the $17,625 if you win. We want equal money.”
Essentially, they want equal pay for equal work. Who could disagree with that?
No one. But they’re not doing equal work, and that’s why they aren’t paid the same.
Before I begin, let me start by saying that our women’s team is the best in the world. Hands down. They’re currently ranked number one, and they have an unbelievable record. Not only have they won 4 Olympic Gold Medals, but they’ve won 3 of the 7 FIFA World Cups, and 7 of the 8 CONCAFAF Women’s Championships they’ve appeared in.
They’re fantastic, and they probably do deserve more money, if for no other reason for the glory they bring our country. They’re winners, and winners should be paid for winning. In this case, they should actually be paid more than their male counterparts. Another way to look at it could be by revenue generation metrics—if they put more bums in seats, they get more money (although this would generally be less-favorable for women’s sports).
These are persuasive arguments, but saying (as their lawyer is) that they should be paid the same because the conditions are the same is wrong. It’s sexist, and it devalues the work and skill of America’s men’s team, who simply face a much higher level of competition. How so?
The fact is that the women’s team, although being highly skilled relative to other women’s teams, isn’t actually that good in absolute terms. This sounds harsh, I get it, but hear me out.
On April 23, 2012, the women’s team played a scrimmage against America’s U-17 boys team. They lost 8-2. Later that year, they won the Olympic Gold Medal. Here are some of the tweets following that game.
#Demoralizing indeed. They may be good, but they weren’t as good as the boys team (boys, not men). True, this wasn’t a fully fledged game, perhaps they weren’t going all out.
But Australia’s national women’s team was when they lost to the Newcastle Jets earlier this year—a team of 15 year old English boys. The Australian women were ranked number 5 in the world at the time.
The fact is that if the women truly wanted “equal pay for equal work”, they wouldn’t get paid a dime. The 15 year old boys don’t get paid. Neither do the 17 year old boys. They’re still in high school for God’s sake.
This is how we know they don’t want equal pay for equal work: they want to be paid as much as for doing a significantly worse job (in absolute terms) just because they’re women. That’s sexist. Facts are facts.
Until America’s women’s team plays at the level of the men’s team, and until they prevail over the sort of competition that our men’s team faces, they don’t deserve equal pay. This is a dead argument.
Instead, the women’s team should focus on their winning record, and their ability to sell out a stadium. If anything, they should be asking for more money than the men.