Five key players on the U.S.W.N.T. are filing a federal complaint charging U.S. Soccer with gender based wage discrimination. In the summer of 2015 the U.S. Women's National soccer team won the world cup in an inspiring and record breaking performance of athleticism and sports(wo)manship. The women's world cup final attracted between 20 - 24 million viewers, making it the most viewed soccer game in U.S. history. The #1 ranked U.S. women's team received $2 million for their performance - while the (now) #30 ranked U.S. men's team received $9 million for their loss in the round of 16 the year before.
Debate about the shortcomings of watching women's sports aside ( see- SportsCenter's Stephen Smith and Novak Djokovic's recent comments), gender based pay inequality is magnified in sports. Athletes have long been cultural icons and heroes, long before billions of dollars poured into the sports industry. This gives us extra reason to stop and think about why we aren't paying our female athletes equitably. What kind of message are we sending to our girls and women? And conversely, imagine the kind of cultural change that could occur if our athletes, male and female, were to advocate for equal pay?
Unsurprisingly, the gender pay gap magnified in sports also exists, though to a lesser degree, across the U.S. in almost every job. The 2015 estimate is that women are paid $0.79 to the $1.00 that men make for the same work. This has been especially apparent in the Tech world, where the statistics on gender diversity among tech leadership and technical positions are horrifically poor despite research suggesting that more women in leadership improve company performance. Companies are promoting diversity in hiring. This is a great step. There are female lead venture firms that are specifically investing in female run companies and companies that provide services or products specifically for women. This is another great step. But how can we affect widespread cultural change?
Cultural values are shaped by where we are putting our money. All our investments - philanthropic or otherwise - are influenced by two factors - our head and heart. Which investment will give me the biggest financial return? Which investments will give me the biggest social return? How am I using my money to shape the world into a place filled with goodness? Luckily, investing in women is both a "good" producer and a money-maker. Our investments should seek to unlock the potential of our women through equal opportunity and equal pay. Let's invest in the world we want to see in the future.