What the equal pay case in American football means for the sport

  • In a case that has implications for the sports world, the US Women Soccer Players Association recently won a settlement for discrimination and unequal pay.
  • There is still a long way to go before equal pay in sport, a sector in which the pay gap between men and women is widening year by year.
  • Research for the World Economic Forum shows that diversity and inclusion in sport increases its societal value.

After six years of legal action, the US Women Soccer Players Association recently won a settlement over discrimination and unequal pay. American football’s governing body agreed to pay $24 million and pledged to match salaries and bonuses to match the men’s team. The Association congratulated not only the lawyers but also the athletes themselves “for their historic success in the fight against decades of discrimination”. This is a big step towards equal pay for women in sport.

But there’s still a long way to go before the sports industry closes the gender pay gap. While the general gender pay gap has remained relatively constant over the past two decades, the sports pay gap has grown year over year. The difference in earnings between the highest paid male and female athletes in major sports such as football, basketball, tennis, golf or baseball can be staggering. For example, Golden State Warriors player Stephen Curry was on track to earn over $40 million in salary during the 2019-20 season. That same year, DeWanna Bonner, the WNBA’s highest-paid player, was entitled to a base salary of $127,500.

Statistics tend to show that there is less market and public interest in women’s sports competitions, leading to speculation that they generate less money. However, Dr Laura Claus from the UCL School of Management argued that “the market follows with the money athletes are paid. More salary for athletes makes them more attractive to the public, as evidenced by professional footballers. So you could say we have to pay women more first and then the market will even out.

Research for the World Economic Forum’s Power of Media initiative, published in a report due to launch in March 2022, shows that diversity and inclusion in sport brings increased societal value. The report will measure how well consumers see themselves represented in film and television, games, news and magazines, and sports, and whether these industries contribute to community and society.

Over the past five years, there have been more initiatives to support female athletes. Visa signed a groundbreaking agreement with the US Soccer Association in 2019 that allocated over 50% of funds to the women’s team. This created media coverage and discussion about investing in women’s sport. Such initiatives are important for creating debate and raising questions about equality issues. They also allow athletes to use their positions to seek greater equality.

While the general gender pay gap has remained relatively constant over the past two decades, the sports pay gap has grown year over year.

While the general gender pay gap has remained relatively constant over the past two decades, the sports pay gap has grown year over year.

Image: Adelphi University, New York

Over the past year, several sports organizations have contributed to investments that will have a positive impact on women’s sport. The Women’s National Basketball Association (NBA) declared a capital increase of $75 million through the sale of shares in the league. The Premier Hockey Federation has committed to investing $25 million in the women’s hockey league over the next few years to improve its overall positioning, competition and fan experience, with a focus on player salaries . The US Golf Association will increase the prize money for the Women’s Open to $10 million this year and $12 million over the next 5 years, nearly double the previous amount.

The COVID-19 pandemic and recent social and political unrest have created a deep sense of urgency for businesses to actively work to address inequality.

The Forum’s work on diversity, equality, inclusion and social justice is led by the New Economy and Society Platform, which focuses on building prosperous, inclusive and just economies and societies. In addition to its work on economic growth, recovery and transformation, labour, wages and job creation, and education, skills and learning, the Platform takes an integrated and holistic approach to diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice, and aims to combat exclusion, prejudice and discrimination based on race, gender, ability, sexual orientation and all other forms of human diversity.

The platform produces data, standards and information, such as the Global Gender Gap Report and the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion 4.0 Toolkit, and pilots or supports action initiatives, such as Partnering for Racial Justice in Business, The Valuable 500 – Closing the Disability Inclusion Gap, Hardwiring Gender Parity in the Future of Work, Closing the Gender Gap Country Accelerators, the Partnership for Global LGBTI Equality, the Community of Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officers and the Global Future Council on Equity and Social Justice.

The rules of American football have huge implications not just for football but for sports in general. Other sports will have to step up their efforts to achieve equality. As US Women’s Soccer Captain Megan Rapinoe said, “For us, this is just a huge win in making sure we not only right the wrongs of the past, but also prepare the next generation for something.” we dreamed of. We are truly in the midst of an incredible turning point in women’s sport.”

It is time for sports organizations, sponsors, leagues and international governing bodies to work together and achieve the goal of an equal, diverse and inclusive environment.

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