On Equal Pay Day, members of the Gender Equity Coalition, soccer coaches and student athletes joined forces to highlight workplace gender discrimination in compensation and call on the U.S. Soccer Federation to do the right thing and end gender discrimination in soccer for the sake of future generations of young women athletes and the integrity of the sport. In addition, they called for women all over the country to sign their petition and help them send a message in the world of athletes and beyond.
On International Women’s Day, the world champion team filed a gender discrimination suit against the U.S. Soccer Federation, citing salary disparities and unequal support, including inferior training, promotion, and playing conditions than their male counterparts. Despite consistently greater success on the field than the U.S. Men’s Soccer team, the three-time world champion, four-time Olympic gold medal U.S. Women’s Soccer team continues to be paid a fraction of the salary paid to men’s team members. In addition, unequal treatment by the federation often exposes female athletes to more hazardous conditions to practice, train and compete.
“Young girls around the world idolize the U.S. Women’s Soccer players because they exemplify unmatched strength, skill and fearlessness,” said Majority Leader Kara Hahn. “Their lawsuit sends a message of solidarity with women worldwide who are fighting for equality in the workplace and presents an important teachable moment for our children about gender disparity and the ongoing fight for women’s equal rights. We want to be role models for our girls, showing them that it is OK to stand up when you think you are being treated unfairly, and that even world-renowned athletes, even champions can face gender discrimination and inequality and that’s NEVER OK.”
The team's lawsuit comes at a time when women are increasingly empowered to fight for equality throughout society and Equal Pay Day is held every April to symbolize how far into the year women need to work to make what men did in the previous year. This form of discrimination often goes unrecognized by individuals, as most companies aren’t transparent about what they pay their workers, and discussing salaries is often taboo. In most cases, workers are simply assuming what others are making and often presume that men and women are paid the same. However, economist have provided amble evidence that gender wage gap continues to exist.
Colleen Merlo, Executive Director of L.I. Against Domestic Violence and Chair of the Gender Equity Coalition states, “Today, we are wearing red to symbolize that women are “in the red” in terms of pay, as compared to men performing similar work. This issue is not just a women’s issue; it affects children and families. Unequal pay contributes to poverty, medical problems and increases violence against women; we must establish gender equity as a core value in our communities and we can start by ensuring women are paid equally for the same work as men.”
In New York State, the Gender Pay Gap (or the earnings ratio of Women’s Median earnings divided by Men’s Median earnings) is 80%. In 2017, women living in Suffolk County earned 78% of what men earned. And furthermore, equal pay does not discriminate equally. Women who are identified within minority groups fare even worse; with black woman earing 79% and Hispanic woman earning just 58% as compared to white men.
“Pay equity is critically important to having a fair and just workplace,” said Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright. “It is imperative that all persons are treated equally as it relates to pay and advancements. This is a critical issue because the impacts are long lasting and far reaching. Unequal pay and gender discrimination impacts a woman as an individual, it impacts her family and the larger society. On a personal level, as the mother of a young girl, I want my daughter to know that her mother fought for equal rights and equal pay for women when I had the opportunity.”
According to Dawn Lott, Executive Director, Suffolk County Human Rights Commission, “While national efforts in Equal Pay Day continue to bring public awareness of the historical pay gap between men and women's wages and salaries, the Suffolk Legislature has taken affirmative steps to close this gap in Suffolk County where women earn 78.1% of their male counterpart's earnings compared to 86.8% statewide by passing the RISE Act which will aid applicants in being paid based upon their skills and qualifications and not their previous salary. The Suffolk County Human Rights Commission is the agency responsible for enforcing this new legislation, investigating complaints of salary history discrimination and imposing civil fines and penalties for discriminatory conduct.
Legislator Hahn is the mother of two daughters, one who plays soccer currently and another who played several years ago while a student. Hahn created a letter writing campaign and petition for sign-on by those who believe that attaining gender equality is critical to the wellbeing of all members of society, and find the inequality between the U.S. Men’s and Women’s Soccer Teams unacceptable. The petition can be accessed at Change.org under the title Pay and Treat Women Soccer Players the Same as Male Players (http://chng.it/k54wZZqJH6) and a sample letter can be found at http://tinyurl.com/yycb3f8v.
Several members of the Suffolk County Legislature signed Majority Leader Hahn’s letter to U.S. Soccer Federation, which is addressed to Board President Carlos Cordeiro and Vice President Cindy Parlow Cone, a former team member, who was elected to the board in February.
Donna Smeland, Chair, Girl Scouts of Suffolk County said: “Strong role models who promote equal rights for women are critical to the healthy development and future success of all girls. Participating in this petition and letter-writing campaign is in tandem with our mission of building girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place."
“To succeed in today’s business world, women need to be able to compete with men as equals,” said Maggie Goldstein, Co-Director of Strategic Partnerships at Suffolk County Women's Business Enterprise Coalition. “That takes strength, confidence and commitment. The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team is an extraordinary example of these qualities and SCWBEC stands behind them as they defend themselves on the field this summer and in court.”
During the next three months leading up to the World Cup in France, the group hopes to obtain 75,000 signatures for the petition, which they will then deliver to U.S. Soccer Federation officials. A 2015 petition supporting the team garnered more than 69,000 signatures.