They say the gender pay divide is smaller than ever. They say that, in the year 2017, women and men are practically equal. They say it’s all fair and there’s no need to worry.
And so a lot of people don’t.
They believe that it’s all under control, and that women will automatically get paid the same as men. Of course they will, this is the 21st Century.
And the real sick part is, it’s not even hidden all that well. The most obviously disgusting example, that proves how the gender pay divide is still very real, exists right under our noses in the very public domain of football. (Soccer, if you’re transatlantic.) Where the subject of salary is as widely discussed as the weather.
But I’ll admit, I didn’t see it before either. It never would have occurred to me if I didn’t have a personal connection to it. It only came to my attention because I’ve recently got to know a professional footballer. Captain of the squad, nonetheless. This weekend she’s leading them out to play in the Women’s FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium. It’s a pretty big deal.
Yet the typical salary of the girls on that pitch is £15,000. (Which is £12k below the national average – in case you were wondering.)
Their male counterparts? The ones who make it to the men’s FA Cup final, well they can easily earn that in a day. One single day.
Which basically means that a year of these girls is worth one day of the male equivalent.
Those girls who train just as hard, who play just as fiercely, who care just as much, who – when they question their salary – are told they’ll be allowed to supplement their income by working in the bar.
Seriously. Professional footballers are being told to work part time in the bar so they can afford to live. But not the male ones. Only the girls.
And, as if that wasn’t already enough of an injustice, the girls don’t even get to benefit from the same facilities as the male players. They don’t get the fancy gym, the personal nutritionist, the team building trips abroad. They’re lucky if they even a team coach to take them to the away games.
It’s the most dangerous kind of discrepancy because it’s one that is so grotesquely shocking it’s almost pardoned with the excuse that it’s surely got to be a one off. A crude anomaly that is okay because it’s not like it’s seriously the norm. Then there’s all the other excuses. The ones that say: the game is different,it’s practically a different sport, you can’t compare the two.
But that rationale is weaker than Leicester’s ability to defend the title. (Or Cleveland Browns ability to win a game in 2016, if you’re transatlantic.)
All the justifications in the world won’t change the fact that it’s the same game. Exactly. The. Same. Game.
And condoning a gap that substantial – where one day of a man equals one year of a woman – for something that is EXACTLY THE SAME reinforces a tired old message. That women are just not worth as much. In this case, quite literally.
And that’s out there for everyone to see, and for children to internalise. And as long as it remains there will always be a danger that this mindset – the one that defines women as being worth less – will stick around for even longer than it ought to. (And it never should have lasted this long in the first place.)
Making allowances for it in football will only portray to other professions that this is acceptable. That women are just supposed to be okay with being worth less.
But we’re not. Not by far.
We’re not all footballers, and our pay gap might not be as considerable as theirs, but we need to act as though it is. We need to raise awareness because, if we don’t, one day it could be.