United States President Joe Biden will host members of the US women’s national soccer team at the White House on Wednesday as part of his push to secure better pay for American women, who earn 82 cents on average for every dollar earned by men.
Wednesday is Equal Pay Day, which marks how much longer into a new year US women on average must work to earn what the average man earned the previous year.
The pay gap is far greater when calculated for Black women, who earn 63 cents on the dollar, and Latina women, who earn just 55 cents, and the gap likely widened during the coronavirus pandemic, experts say.
“Equal pay” became a huge rallying cry for the soccer squad – which was by Megan Rapinoe when it won the Women’s World Cup for a second consecutive time in 2019 – and for its fans after the team sued US Soccer, alleging gender discrimination.
The coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout have exacerbated disparities, triggering what Vice President Kamala Harris has called a “national emergency” for women.
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the challenges of the past year had inflicted “a further, devastating toll on American women,” and vowed to push through legislation to end the gender wage gap and strengthen women’s economic security.
Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package includes provisions aimed at getting the two million women who left the labour force during the pandemic back to work. His next legislative push, valued at some $3 trillion, will also aim to help women by expanding childcare infrastructure and creating jobs, administration officials say.
Heather Boushey, a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, told news network MSNBC that the new package would focus on “making sure that women have what they need to succeed in the workplace,” but gave no specific details.
Rapinoe and teammate Margaret Purce will join Biden at the White House, along with other soccer players who will join the event virtually, administration officials said.
Rapinoe told the House Committee on Oversight and Reform that the World Cup winners had exceeded the accomplishments of their male counterparts but received inadequate compensation and playing conditions.
“They are heroines because they champion this issue for all women,” said Jennifer Klein, co-chair of the newly established White House Gender Policy Council. “This is really true in literally every country in the world – women are paid less.”
The team reached a settlement in December with US Soccer on certain working conditions, including team travel and accommodations, but is still fighting in the courts to achieve pay that is equal to that of the men’s soccer team.