Just about everybody in the U.S. tuned into the FIFA Women's World Cup final game this past Sunday to cheer on our national team, from President Obama to John Green, and the broadcast garnered a record 25 million viewers (the highest rating for a soccer game on a single network in the U.S.). The players received bountiful praise for their whopping 5-2 defeat of Japan in the final (the last time they won was back in 1999), with help from team captain Carli Lloyd who scored three of their five goals. It was also a farewell for veteran player Abby Wambach, who said 2015 will be her last year competing on the U.S. World Cup team.
But even amid all the glory and celebration, a troubling reality of gender inequality is becoming visible. Consider this fact: The U.S. team won roughly $2 million for the World Cup title, whereas the men's champion team last year, Germany, received some $35 million for their win (and even more in endorsements). To put that amount in even more perspective, the U.S. women's team earned four times less than the men's team which lost in the first round of the FIFA World Cup last year. Top soccer players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi make millions of dollars every year, when the top paid female player, Marta Viera da Silva of Brazil, makes just $400,000. Alex Morgan of the U.S. team was estimated to have made $450,000 last year, mostly through endorsements and sponsors (because the National Women's Soccer Leagues caps the salary at just $200,000). And Wambach only made somewhere between $190,000 to $300,000. These women are ranked as the highest paid, yet they earn only a small fraction of their male counterparts.
At the very least, the team's recent exposure has helped to underline this startling inequity, and there is now a campaign pressuring FIFA to dole out equal pay for the championship win (that you can sign). The worldwide popularity of the team will also help give them extra leverage to argue for better wages, though it is unlikely any changes will immediately occur. Of course, soccer isn't the only sport where women are paid less than their male counterparts--just about every other major sport has some type of pay gap. Perhaps this is just a small reflection of the greater divide which exists globally in all professions. We just hope that with more attention, this injustice might have a chance of being resolved (or at least lessened).