US President Joe Biden decried the salary gap between men and women and was joined by members of the US women’s national football team, including Megan Rapinoe, who described getting paid less than male counterparts.
“The pay gap is real,” Mr Biden said Wednesday at the White House. “And this team is living proof that you can be the very best at what you do and still have to fight for equal pay.”
Mr Biden’s event, with first lady Jill Biden, was intended to mark what’s called “Equal Pay Day” to draw attention to the disparities in compensation. In addition to Rapinoe, the president was joined in person by another team member, Margaret Purce, while others took part virtually.
Many women must work well into the following year to match what men earn in 12 months. March 24 is the date in 2021 when the average woman employee will have caught up with her male colleagues’ earnings from last year, based on an analysis by the Equal Pay Day Campaign of 2019.
Rapinoe and more than 25 of her teammates, who have won multiple world and Olympic championships, sued the US Soccer Federation in 2017 over pay disparities with their less successful male counterparts.
At one point, the women said they earned about 32 cents for every dollar paid to male players, and one expert witness in the litigation gave evidence that the women’s team is owed about $67 million to bridge the gap with the men.
“I’ve been devalued, I’ve been disrespected and dismissed because I am a woman. And I’ve been told that I don’t deserve any more than less because I am a woman,” Rapinoe said at the White House. “Despite all the wins, I’m still paid less than men who do the same job that I do.”
Earlier Wednesday, Rapinoe gave evidence on gender pay disparities to the House Oversight committee, telling politicians that the example of her and her teammates shows women can’t escape inequity simply by outperforming men in the same jobs.
The women’s team won its second consecutive World Cup title in 2019. The US men’s team has never made it to a World Cup final.
“We have filled stadiums, broken viewing records and sold out jerseys, all popular metrics by which we are judged,” Rapinoe said told the committee. “Yet despite all of this, we are still paid less than men – for each trophy, of which there are many, each win, each tie, each time we play.”
At one point, she sparred with Scott Franklin, a Florida Republican, who challenged the participation of transgender female athletes in women’s sports.
“As someone who has played sports with someone who is trans,” Rapinoe responded, “nothing is spontaneously combusting.”
“For me, it would be unfair to continue to marginalise anyone by gender,” she added.
The women’s team’s class action suit is pending before the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which is considering their request to revive the pay bias allegations. A proposed settlement covers the women’s claims of discrimination in other terms and conditions of employment besides pay, including team travel, playing conditions and professional support.