July 10, 2015 — Today, thousands of people will line the streets of Manhattan to celebrate the U.S. Women’s National Team’s World Cup victory with a ticker-tape parade. Although their historic win shines a spotlight on women in sports, it also has pushed the controversy concerning the wage gap to the forefront of a global conversation. Pay inequality is alive and well, and it doesn’t only exist within corporate offices. When it comes to competing on the fields and courts, female athletes take home less than their male counterparts.
According to reports, the total payout for the U.S. women’s soccer team will be $2 million for winning the FIFA Women’s World Cup. While this might seem an ample sum of money, it’s miniscule in comparison to the $35 million that the male winners of the FIFA World Cup brought in last year. And, the inequality goes beyond the amount of money that the U.S. women’s soccer team will receive for winning the championship. The salary ranges for the National Women’s Soccer League are between $6,842 and $37,800, while the men’s Major League Soccer pays a minimum of $50,000. The women’s teams have a salary cap of approximately $265,000, compared to the men’s team salary cap of more than $3 million.
The pay gap is prevalent in other major sports as well. WNBA players make an average of $72,000 per year while those in the NBA had a minimum salary of $507,336 per year during the 2014-2015 season. Tennis star Maria Sharapova brings home $29.7 million but makes less than half of what Roger Federer makes.
The precedent is set way before athletes enter the professional realm; the pay gap also seeps into our educational system. Although colleges and universities are required to have equal funding for both men’s and women’s athletic teams, men receive 55% of athletic scholarships, while women only get 45%.
It’s no secret that women athletes are often overlooked and underappreciated. But while all eyes are now on the U.S. women’s soccer team it’s vital that we use this time as an opportunity to bring attention to the perils that all women face in their careers—whether they are on the field or in the boardroom. Today we’ll be donning jerseys, throwing confetti, and cheering for the World Cup victory. But I also look forward to the day when professional leagues score the bigger goal of overcoming pay inequality.