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August 14 2019

Taylor Swift Needs to “Calm Down” about U.S. Women’s Soccer Team Pay Gap Fight

by Patrice Lee Onwuka

Taylor Swift entered the political fray again at the Teen Choice Awards this weekend to encourage her fans to fight gender inequality and the pay gap. She’s siding with the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT), which feels gender discrimination is behind why they get paid less than men. 

But before Swift unleashes her 120 million Instagram followers on the patriarchy, she may want to do some research.

Here’s the back story.

Alex Morgan, co-captain of the team, presented Swift with the inaugural Teen Choice Icon Award. Before launching into her acceptance speech, Swift used her soapbox to co-sign Morgan’s (and two other team members’) pay equity lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation. 

Swift is right that the women’s soccer team members are MVPs for winning this year’s World Cup.

Then, she goes wrong:

"… But while they were winning the World Cup, they were also taking a historic stand in terms of gender equality, gender pay gap. Please, please, please support her and her teammates because this isn’t over yet. It’s not resolved."

According to Swift, the female soccer players don’t earn the same amount and it's “unfair.” Even more, soccer is not the only place where pay gaps exist:

“It’s happening everywhere and they’re heroes and icons for standing up.”

Here’s what Swift should know before jumping to conclusions - like so many people have lately.

First, women actually earn more than men in soccer by some measures. The 2015 Women’s World Cup brought in almost $73 million in revenue of which the players got 13 percent. The 2010 men’s World Cup in South Africa made almost $4 billion and 9 percent went to the players.

Second, male and female players have collectively bargained and chosen different pay structures. Women have salary-based contracts with generous benefits and guaranteed pay. Men have bonus-based pay with fewer benefits and no guaranteed pay meaning they get nothing if they don’t make the roster.

Third, the World Cup prize money is where there’s a significant gap. As the Washington Post explained:

“Total prize money for the Women’s World Cup in 2019 is $30 million — the champions will walk away with about $4 million. For contrast, in the 2018 Men’s World Cup, the champions won $38 million from a total pool of about $400 million.”

My colleague Hadley explained it well recently when she wrote, “men’s and women’s soccer are best understood as two different sports with different labor markets.”

In addition, Swift has a huge platform to correct the misperception that women don’t receive equal work for equal pay based on the gender pay gap. As we have debunked time-and-time again, the raw wage gap of about 20 cents — calculated by comparing the average female wage with the average male wage — is nearly entirely the result of differing career choices rather than discrimination.

As an icon, Swift has a chance to educate adoring girls and women that what industries they work in, what career tracks they pursue, and what majors they study will impacts their earnings. 

She’s also a boss when it comes to managing her career. Why not talk about negotiating for higher pay.

These are empowering messages that educate young women to own their future rather than making them believe they are simply victims of their gender.

Taylor Swift is an icon for younger generations, but she’s missing the opportunity to influence them for good. She should fill that “Blank Space” with truth and facts rather than emotion and misinformation.





Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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