The United States Senior Women’s National Soccer Team (WNT) is a crowd pleaser and they won last year’s World Cup Title. Their paychecks, however, were a lot less than the United States Senior Men’s National Soccer Team (MNT). So, they sued under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Code.
A judge just tossed out the Equal Pay Act portion, allowing the Civil Rights claims to continue.
It turns out that the women made more per game than the men. The men just played a lot more games. And they also had a very different contract than the men’s team. The United States Soccer Federation offered the WNT the same contract as the men, but they rejected it for one with less risk.
If they had had miserable seasons, they would have come out ahead on their plan, but they had a fantastic run–and if they had chosen the same plan as the men’s team they would have been paid much better.
The court, however, said, that what-ifs are not how life works. Judge Klausner wrote:
“The history of negotiations between the parties demonstrates that the WNT rejected an offer to be paid under the same pay-to-play structure as the MNT, and the WNT was willing to forgo higher bonuses for benefits, such as greater base compensation and the guarantee of a higher number of contracted players.”
The women made a choice and the men made a different choice.
Outside of professional soccer, men with full-time jobs work an average of 41 hours per week, while women work an average of 36.3 hours per week. Harvard Economics Professor Claudia Goldman found that women preferred flexibility over salary; security over high risk and high reward. Most of the gender pay gap can be explained by these types of choices.
The WNT team had the option to choose the high risk/high reward contract as the MNT did, but they preferred a more sure thing. They negotiated severance, injury pay, a minimum number of players, retirement benefits, and other things that the Men’s team doesn’t have.
It’s okay to make a choice on what is important to you, but it’s not fair to turn around and sue when it doesn’t go your way.
The WNT didn’t go in naively. They negotiated these things, knowing what the MNT had. Negotiating for retirement benefits is a smart thing, but it also lessened their total compensation in the present.
The WNT plans to appeal and the general gender discrimination case will continue.