Equal Pay for Equal Play: How Corporate Sponsors Can Change Sport

Years before the Supreme Court legalized marriage for gay couples, Fortune 500 companies offered employees with same-sex partners health insurance coverage. In tandem, many companies have developed corporate social responsibility programs that lead in critical efforts around poverty, children's welfare, and more.

Corporate leaders have found over the years that doing the right thing not only makes financial sense, but it gives them a unique opportunity to lead, across all sectors: business, government, and social.

Many people around the globe are decrying the outrageous pay disparity that the Women's World Cup winners faced versus their male counterparts this year. Recent Washington Post research shows that while tennis, running, and volleyball award prize money equally to male and female winners, soccer, cricket, and golf have large prize money disparities.

The male team that won the World Cup was awarded $35 million. The US Women's Team, this year's Women's World Cup champs? $2 million. (For comparison, the US Men's Team was knocked out of the World Cup in game 16, and they took home $16 million.) Men's cricket winners? Nearly $4 million, while the women took home just $75,000. Over at the US Open, the male golf winner received $1.8 million, with the female winner receiving only $810,000.

What can be done to level the playing field within FIFA, and other athletic tournaments?

As Founder and Executive Director of Athlete Ally, an organization built on the idea of individuals supporting each other through allyship, and doing the right thing, I see a clear answer: businesses can, and should, lead on tournament equity. Corporations often sponsor prize winnings, and therefore have powerful voices at the table within organizations like FIFA.

Corporate sponsors have already brought equality to sport -- in one arena at least. Last year's Women's PGA Tournament raised the amount of its purse to the same amount as the men's tournament's. It was brought about by corporate sponsors who wanted to do the right thing. And in increasing the women's prize money by 87 percent compared with years past, they did.

There's no reason that the World Cup sponsors cannot demonstrate the same integrity in their negotiations with FIFA. Companies have an opportunity to lead, and the time is now.

What does that mean? Don't sign on to sponsor junior high intramural sports if the boys' teams get new uniforms every year and the girls' teams haven't seen a new uniform since you were in junior high. Don't sponsor a local golf tournament if the women's prize money trails behind the men's by 50 percent. And when you're approached by FIFA or another tournament, state your case: We'd love to be involved, but we really can't until we know the men's and the women's teams will be treated equitably.

Without sponsors, these tournaments don't have prize winnings, plain and simple. Corporations can do the right thing. They can be allies, and change the way female athletes are treated around the globe. Think one company can't change the world? Tell that to the first company who offered benefits to same-sex partners of their employees. Tell that to the sponsors of the Women's PGA Championship. When one company does the right thing, it plants the seeds for a wave of social change. Now is the time for corporate sponsors to put their principle into practice to help change sports for the better.