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U.S. women’s soccer team fights for equal pay

Posted July. 13, 2019 07:52,   

Updated July. 13, 2019 07:52


The 1992 hit TV drama “A Son and a Daughter” is a coming-of-age story of the twin, “Gwi-nam” and “Hu-nam.” Gw-inam, which literally means “precious man” is his family’s seven-generation only son. His twin sister is only a reminder that his family needs another boy the next time. Hu-nam had to give up going to college because her parents bet everything on their son. Considering the fact that the drama had the viewer ratings of over 60 percent, the story of Hu-nam was not unfamiliar to people living in that time.

Surprisingly, we still hear those stories today, where girls are left out of support and resolved to prove themselves to their family. Women living in the U.S., where the level of gender equality is much higher than Korea, often complain about being treated as second-rate citizens of lower investment value. The U.S. women’s national soccer team, which claimed back-to-back titles of the FIFA Women’s World Cup France, filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) for gender discrimination.

According to The Guardian, the U.S. women’s national soccer team receives a total of 200,000 dollars (approx. 240 million won) in bonus if they win the World Cup whereas the U.S. men’s national soccer team gets 1.1 million dollars, which is over five times as much as that for women’s team. The total prize money for this year’s Women’s World Cup was 30 million dollars (approx. 35.37 billion dollars), 7.5 percent of that of Men’s World Cup in 2018. The USSF argues that women’s soccer games are less lucrative and have lower viewer ratings, hence the less bonus. But the U.S. media used the federation’s financial statement in their reports to show that the U.S. women’s national soccer team earned more money than the U.S. men’s soccer team since their victory at the 2015 World Cup. The U.S. women’s soccer team has reportedly sold more uniforms than the men’s team. The viewer ratings for the 2019 Women’s World Cup final were higher than that of 2018 Men’s World Cup final.

Some men criticize the U.S. women’s soccer team for being ignorant of how the sports market works and only interested in money. But what they have asked for was not just money. They complain about being discriminated against in terms of practice facilities, travel contract, and medical support. Megan Rapinoe, U.S. women’s national soccer team co-caption, said equal pay is more than just money, adding that they will not know what their real potential is until they receive the same investment, support, care, and intellectual capacity as men.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the 1972 Civil Rights Act, which made it possible to provide college scholarships to the same number of men and women athletes, was the key to the success of the U.S. women’s national soccer team. Unlike Europe, which focuses on training a few elite athletes, great athletes have been nurtured in the U.S. as the law has enabled many girls to participate in sports activities. It is not hard to see female students playing soccer both in downtown Manhattan and in a small village in California.

The “curse of Hu-nam,” which excludes women from investments and opportunities, should be eliminated first in order for women to be able to break the glass ceiling in promotion and compensation. It is not enough to only talk about equal compensation for equal achievements. The problem is not limited to sports. We should look back on ourselves and see how much investments are made in training women to become executives or nurturing women talent in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), which will be in great demand in future job market.

The U.S. women’s soccer team paraded through NYC’s “Canyon of Heroes,” a stretch of Broadway between Bowling Green and City Hall Park, holding the trophy on Wednesday. New York citizens, who gathered to celebrate the heroes, chanted, “equal compensation” and “pay them.” They were at the venue four years ago as well, receiving the cheers from the crowds. But the athletes were not treated as real heroes in reality. It will be different in the next four years and four years after that.

Yong Park parky@donga.com