When most people think about sustainability and sports, their first thought is how to “green an event.” However, with the Women’s World Cup kicking off this week, it’s important to talk about the social aspect of sports sustainability – namely the pay gap. Increasingly, the term “gender pay gap” has become a common and a term that organizations are supposed to “improve.”
Let’s call it what it is. Discrimination. Plain and simple.
As a sustainability consultant who has worked with hundreds of companies and organizations, I have yet to meet one that doesn’t have a generic HR statement stating that they don’t discriminate on the case of race, class, ethnicity, religion or creed, and, of course, gender. How is this blatant gender discrimination still possible?
While gender discrimination is everywhere in corporate America, it is even more pronounced in sports, where justification is used on the basis of revenue, on-field success, ticket sales and sponsorship. But let’s take a deeper look, specifically about the US Women’s Soccer Team as it is World Cup time.
These excuses are used by the United States Soccer Federation as justification for discrimination, but let’s consider the fact that the US Women are currently the #1 team in the country and the reigning World Cup Champ. In fact, they are three-time World Cup Champions, four-time Olympic Gold Medalists, and eight-time Concacaf Gold Cup winners. Compare that to the men, who didn’t qualify for the last Men’s World Cup, their best finish was a semi-final appearance in 1930, and their most recent success was a narrow loss to Germany in the quarterfinals in 2002. They have never won the Olympic Gold and have failed to qualify for the last two Olympics.
I’m a neutral fan on this matter, as I’ve been to my share of World Cup qualifiers for both the men and women. There has been no difference in the size or enthusiasm of the crowds. In fact, the only difference is that the women have won three times.
The US Soccer Federation won’t share its financials with its players and continues to discriminate on the same old excuses. This echoes the tactics that have been used for decades in the corporate sector to depress female wages in a world where in 2019, US women still only earn 79 cents on the dollar compared to men in the business world. This is not right. We need to call out their discrimination, as shareholders, customers and employees – even as they have their “policies” and “statements” on their websites and corporate disclosures.
Now we must do this as fans too. It’s time for all of us, sustainability gurus and sports fans alike, to come together to stamp out racism, homophobia and, once and for all, gender discrimination.
Kevin Wilhelm is the CEO of Sustainable Business Consulting, which integrates sustainability to drive innovation, uncover opportunities and enhance brand value. SBC has a 1:1 pay ratio, is 80% women, and has staff decide CEO pay. He is the author of Making Sustainability Stick, an advisor to sports organizations on sustainability and a husband to one bad-ass wife.