Hope Solo is just as frustrated as the rest of us that we’re still debating whether a wage gap even exists. In a recent interview with Vox’s Liz Plank, the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team goalkeeper discussed the team’s federal wage discrimination complaint against U.S. Soccer and helped Plank make the case that it’s time to focus on closing the wage gap instead of denying it exists.
“I was always the asshole,” Solo told Plank, explaining that she faced resistance from her own teammates when she pushed questions about the wage disparities between the soccer federation’s men’s and women’s teams. “It was ‘Hope, just be happy we’re getting paid.’ This has just been instilled inside of my teammates and women for such a long time that I don’t know how to break that thought process.”
Despite bringing in $20 million in revenue for U.S. Soccer in 2015—compared to the men’s team’s loss of $2 million—the USWNT players made 40 percent less than their male counterparts that year. “The pay scale doesn’t compete,” Solo told Plank of the difference between the two teams’ earnings. “It doesn’t even compare.”
She also told Plank that despite the apparent wage disparities facing the World Cup-winning women’s team, people still don’t believe that discrimination is occurring. “I get comments all the time just not believing the pay gap is real,” she said. “Just, you know, that women accept lower-paying jobs. It’s our fault as a women’s national team because we accepted a lesser contract.”
The argument that women choose lower-paying jobs is popular among those who deny that the pay gap exists. However, Solo argues that the discrepancy in pay is large enough that instead of getting to work solely on what she loves doing—soccer (which also happens to be what she’s incredibly good at doing)—she has to find other ways to supplement her income. “That’s what people don’t realize,” says Solo. “Now I’m putting myself in a position where, do I want to pose on the cover of ESPN Magazine in a sports bra and spandex, just to make money? So now I’m thinking about objectifying myself to make money.”
In the video segment, Plank also argued the more general case for gender discrimination in the workplace, using the USWNT’s case as a launching point into exploring the wage gap across sectors and job types. She showed that men working in women-dominated fields are paid more, on average, than the women, and cited evidence of a correlation between women entering a male-dominated field in greater numbers and a drop in average pay in that field. Teresa Younger, President and CEO of the Ms. Foundation for Women, also appeared in the segment and made the case that women-dominated fields are less valued. “The fastest growing jobs are in caregiving and teaching,” she told Plank, “and we have not made those professions reflective of the important role they play in our society.”