The US women’s national hockey team will not participate in the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship at the end of this month in protest against stalled negotiations with USA Hockey over their wages and the league’s lack of financial support for team development programs for girls, ESPN reports:
In the past, USA Hockey has provided the players with $1,000 per month during the six-month Olympic residency period. According to the players, USA Hockey pays virtually nothing during the remainder of the four-year period, despite its expectation that in each of the non-Olympic years, the players train full-time and compete throughout the year. …
The Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act requires national governing sports bodies to “provide equitable support and encouragement for participation by women where separate programs for male and female athletes are conducted on a national basis,” as is the case in hockey. According to the players, USA Hockey spends approximately $3.5 million annually to support a schedule of more than 60 games a season for boys participating in its national team development program. There are no comparable development opportunities for girls.
The women’s team’s decision is reminiscent of last year’s controversies over gender pay gaps in professional tennis and between the men’s and women’s national soccer teams. In the case of the US women’s soccer team, star players claimed, in their complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last year, to earn as little as 40 percent of what their male counterparts do despite winning Olympic and World Cup titles and drawing bigger crowds than the men’s team. Similarly, ESPN notes that the women’s hockey team has won gold in six of the past eight world championships and has won a medal in every Olympics, including the gold in 1998, so if the team is indeed being underpaid, that certainly wouldn’t reflect the quality of their work or breadth of their accomplishments.
These events reflect growing awareness of the gender pay gap both as a general social phenomenon and specifically in professional sports, as well as the increasing insistence by women’s teams on receiving a level of investment comparable to their male peers. Detractors have long claimed that women’s sports don’t get the same amount of support simply because they much less profitable than men’s, but the pay gap appears to exist even when women’s teams excel athletically and in terms of popularity, and advocates of gender equality insist that there is a huge market for women’s sports that leagues are missing out on when they decline to invest in their women’s teams.
Diversity and inclusion leaders may recognize this as an argument they’ve used themselves in talking about the value of diversity: Women and minorities have a lot of power as consumers and are increasingly going out of their way to support businesses that value gender equality and diversity. CEB Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Council members can use our tool to help build the business case for diversity and inclusion at their organizations.