March 24 (UPI) — U.S. women’s soccer star Megan Rapinoe said Wednesday that she and her teammates have been “devalued” for their gender as President Joe Biden called for Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.
Delivering remarks at an Equal Pay Day event at the White House alongside her Team USA colleague, Margaret Purce, the president and first lady Jill Biden, Rapinoe said that although she has won an Olympic gold medal and two World Cups, she still struggles to earn as much as her male counterparts.
“Despite those wins, I’ve been devalued, I’ve been disrespected and dismissed because I am a woman. And I’ve been told I don’t deserve any more than less — because I am a woman,” she said.
Rapinoe, who has long campaigned for equality, was part of a lawsuit last year against the U.S. Soccer Federation for gender discrimination.
During testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, Rapinoe accused the U.S. Soccer Federation of lobbying against the women’s team’s efforts for equal pay, declaring that no level of status, accomplishments or power “will protect you from the clutches of inequity.”
“We are told in this country that if you work hard and continue to achieve, you will be rewarded fairly. It’s the promise of the American Dream. But that promise has not been for everyone,” she said. “If that can happen to us, to me, with the brightest light shining on us, it can and it does, happen to every person who is marginalized by gender. And we don’t have to wait. We don’t have to continue to be patient. We can change that today. Right now.”
Purce said the issue of unequal pay “rests on the notion of unequal value.”
“It is an issue of equity,” she said. “When men began sports leagues, they were supported by billions in taxpayer subsidies. They were prioritized in media and afforded time to grow. The investment was great and the return was great.”
She added that women’s sports have not been provided the same grace and investment.
“You would never expect a flower to bloom without water. But women in sport who have been denied water, sunlight and soil are somehow expected to blossom. Invest in women. Then let’s talk again when you see the return,” Purce said.
Equal Pay Day was established by the National Committee on Pay Equity in 1996.
“This date symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year,” according to the committee. “Because women earn less, on average, than men, they must work longer for the same amount of pay. The wage gap is even greater for most women of color.”
The White House noted that American women, on average, earn 82 cents for every dollar earned by American men. Joe Biden issued a proclamation calling for the passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act.
The legislation would ban employees from seeking salary history, hold employers who engage in systemic discrimination accountable, and seek to ensure transparency and reporting in wage disparities.
“The gender wage gap can cost women hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of a career,” Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., chairman of the congressional Joint Economic Committee, said in a statement Wednesday.
“If long-term economic growth is our goal, then closing the gender wage gap is not just a moral imperative, it is an economic one in a nation where two-thirds of mothers are either the primary breadwinner or co-breadwinner in their families.”
Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan includes billions in emergency funding aimed at returning Americans to the workforce — among them, about 2 million women who have lost jobs due to COVID-19.
The president signed two executive orders this month to promote gender equity and equal rights in the United States.
“This issue is so much bigger than the number on a paycheck. Our work gives us a sense of purpose, it’s often how we make our mark on the lives of others and the world,” Jill Biden said Wednesday.