Eliminating the Gender Wage Gap: Simmons University Soccer Weighs in on Equal Pay for the U.S. Women's National Team
On May 18, 2022, the U.S. Soccer Federation proclaimed that United States men's and women's soccer players will receive equal pay. Former Simmons University Soccer Coach and now Director of Athletics and Recreation Erica Schuling and current team member Mo Grant '24 share their thoughts about this unprecedented moment in sports history.
What does this historic moment mean to you?
Erica Schuling: This has been overdue. I am pleased to see the women's team finally getting what they deserve. It leaves me hopeful that progress is being made towards equality for women.
Mo Grant: Growing up I always looked up to the U.S. Women's National Team (USWNT) and loved watching them play. It's been disheartening and frustrating that they weren't afforded the same resources and financial security as the men's team. Hearing that the U.S. Soccer Federation finally came to this deal was exciting and a relief. After years of fighting for equality the women's team is finally receiving the compensation they deserve and have worked so hard to earn.
In your opinion, why has it taken so long to get to this point?
Schuling: All of the power and decision-making has been in the hands of men. The only reason there is change happening is because the women were willing to risk it all and fight for their rights. They are using their voices and their success to fight on behalf of all women. They refused to back down and worked hard to get more women in positions of power.
Grant: Gender inequality is faced by female athletes around the world, in all sports. For the U.S. Soccer Federation, it has always been the “norm” to pay male athletes more because they're typically more valued in sports culture than female athletes. This is true of other sports, like the NBA (National Basketball Association) and WNBA (Women's National Basketball Association) with the argument that more people watch men's basketball. However, the USWNT are far more decorated than their male counterparts and subsequently have more viewership for their games. I think it took a long time for the teams to get equal payment because it took the people in charge a long time to see just how valued the USWNT (United States Women's National Soccer Team) really is.
Why are male athletes more valued in popular culture?
Schuling: Honestly, I don't know why. If I had to guess it is because there is still a privilege to being a man in this country. There are more opportunities for men to play professional sports and oftentimes female athletes have to make a decision to continue to play or to start a family. For those who are able to balance both, I truly consider them superwomen. It is not easy to balance full-time mom, full-time partner, and full-time job.
Grant: Historically, it has been typically men who have engaged in sports. They were able to make it an important part of pop culture and create careers from playing sports. When women finally got the opportunity to play sports it was seen as nothing more than a hobby. As women's sports have gained popularity it has been challenging for people to move past these rigid gender norms and respect female athletes the same as male athletes.
What does the wage gap reveal about gender politics in America?
Schuling: It still exists in 2022 and unfortunately the fight is ongoing. This incredible step forward in equal pay for the women's team gets whiplashed by the Supreme Court to overturn abortion rights.
Grant: It shows that our country continues to undervalue women and their service in the workforce. In one of the richest countries in the world it would be seemingly simple to ensure economic equality among all genders, but this inequality and wage gap is still a prevalent issue in 2022. The USWNT is the perfect example of a group of women who have gone above and beyond in their careers with a consistently high success rate and until now didn't receive equal compensation. They are just one example of millions of Americans that make less than they deserve because of their gender.
How has the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team been an inspiration for you?
Schuling: I remember watching them win the 1996 World Cup and again the 1999 World Cup with the iconic celebration after Brandi Chastain converted her penalty kick. Fast-forward to more recent years and being able to watch players capitalizing on the historical and continued success of the team to create a platform to fight for the rights of all women has been energizing. They are continuing to blaze the trail that was laid before them. It is amazing to think that my daughter and little girls everywhere will only know the future of U.S. Soccer as having equal pay for both men and women.
Grant: I have been watching the USWNT for as long as I can remember and have always looked up to all of them for their skills and their success. As I got older, I realized they were so much more than that, as fierce advocates for gender equality, LGBTQ+ rights, racial equality, and more. Seeing how they fought for equal payment these last few years showed me how important it is to stand up for yourself and ensure that you're getting everything you deserve.
Is this pursuit for women's equality and empowerment mirrored in the culture of Simmons University's soccer team?
Schuling: Athletics at Simmons University is the epitome of equality and empowerment since our women's teams get all of the resources. We do not have to compete with a men's program for field time or extra funds in a budget. The campus community supports our Sharks and our women's teams are the main event! There is certainly a sense of empowerment that runs deep in the culture of the soccer program. The life skills that our student athletes learn through the team experience will make them extremely valuable in the workforce. Their ability to work with others, problem solve, overcome defeat and persevere will make them an integral part of any organization's success.
Grant: Simmons University as a whole has always been ahead of the curve in the pursuit for women's equality and empowerment. We are able to focus all of our time and resources on women's athletics and guarantee that all of our athletes are afforded the same opportunities. The Simmons University Soccer team is a loving community full of athletes that care deeply about one another and the success of our fellow teammates. The team does everything we can to uplift one another and support each other on and off the field. In the face of adversity our team would certainly mirror the qualities of the USWNT and fight for ourselves and each other.