In the recent Women’s World Cup the US Women’s Soccer Team won a dramatic 5-2 victory over Japan.   The game drew record-breaking viewership, not only in terms of women’s sports, but in terms of men’s – with 25.4 million viewers.  In other words, more people watched Women’s final in the US than watched the Stanley Cup Finals and Game Six of the NBA Finals. 

Following the victory another interesting piece of data emerged; the US Women were paid $2 million each for winning.  Compare this with the winners of the most recent Men’s World Cup, Germany, who took home $35 million each, and the US Men who received $8 million for reaching the round of 16. 

In the recent Women’s World Cup the US Women’s Soccer Team won a dramatic 5-2 victory over Japan.   The game drew record-breaking viewership, not only in terms of women’s sports, but in terms of men’s – with 25.4 million viewers.  In other words, more people watched Women’s final in the US than watched the Stanley Cup Finals and Game Six of the NBA Finals. 

Following the victory another interesting piece of data emerged; the US Women were paid $2 million each for winning.  Compare this with the winners of the most recent Men’s World Cup, Germany, who took home $35 million each, and the US Men who received $8 million for reaching the round of 16. 

After the story broke, Democrats in the House of Representatives proposed a resolution calling on FIFA to provide equal pay for women soccer players.  It does not appear that this call has influenced FIFA, the organization’s Secretary General Jerome Valcke subsequently called equal payment for women “nonsense.”  With regards to sports in particular, men’s sports are more promoted and better funded than women’s, even though women’s athletics have made major gains since the passage of Title IX, but the fundamental issue of equal pay exists throughout the world of work for women. 

Though the wage gap between men and women had been shrinking in the US it now appears stuck, with women earning, on average, 77% of what men earn.  In “Under the Bus,” Caroline Frederickson explores the pay gap and the numerous policies that keep women’s earnings lower than men’s.  Though 77% is the most commonly cited percentage, Frederickson also looks at the even more dramatic wage gaps for women of color- on average Hispanic women earn 62%, black women earn 71%, white women earn 82% and Asian women earn 95% of men. 

She explains how a number of policies are responsible for keeping the wage gap where it is- including lack of maternity (or paternity) leave for most women, lower pay in “feminized” job sectors such as childcare, and how many part-time workers are women who would like full-time work but are unable to find it.  In addition, women comprise 63% of minimum wage workers and 73% of tipped employees; the federal base pay for tipped employees is $2.13 an hour and has remained unchanged at this rate since 1996, and often living off of tips does not make for a sustainable career. 

The Obama administration’s proposed changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act would help women workers when implemented.  Though the changed rules would not affect minimum wage employees they would impact salaried works earning less than $50,440 a year.  Currently, salaried workers earning more than $23,660 in any sort of “managerial” position are ineligible for overtime pay. 

With the new rule these workers would start receiving time and a half pay when they work over 40 hours a week, this effectively cancels the “white collar exemption” for overtime pay.  According to DOL this could impact over 5 million US workers and targets the middle class directly as it is linked to the 40th percentile of income.  It would particularly impact women workers, according to the Economic Policy Institute which found that women would “disproportionately benefit” from the increase in the salary threshold because they are more likely than men to earn a lower salary.  In fact, they find that 54% of people newly covered by the rule would be women. 

Though this new rule does not address the wage gap directly it would help women workers.  The Department of Labor estimates that during the rules first year $1.5 billion would be transferred from employers to workers.  If the rule does go into effect before the end of the Obama administration, as it should, it can begin addressing the inequality affecting women in the US. 

In the meantime; however, women also need to continue pushing for other legislation which impacts women workers, like paid leave and affordable childcare, and supporting organizations, like the National Domestic Workers Alliance, which enable women to organize and fight for better pay and working conditions.