With the Women’s World Cup well underway, it’s no great surprise that the issue of the gender pay gap has once again come into the spotlight.
Things started on a positive note- FIFA made history by hosting its first ever Women’s Convention, and announced an official partnership with the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women). Efforts would focus upon raising awareness and implementing change to establish greater global gender equality, a move which UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka described as a partnership that ‘will make a real difference to gender inequality that we currently see in sports, and that we are working to end throughout society.’
FIFA have also doubled the prize money for this year’s event, from £15 million to 30 million respectively. While this seems like a step in the right direction, this move was undermined by a significant increase in the men’s World Cup prize money- it has now increased from £400 million to £440 million. Yes, that’s a difference of £410 million.
This inevitably raises questions as to how much progress is actually being made here; what is masqueraded as ‘progress’ essentially reinforces the continued imbalance that not only dictates the gender pay gap in women’s football, but also across society as a whole.
According to BBC studies, less than half of the UK’s biggest employers have managed to narrow their gender pay gap.
By law, all companies, charities and public sector departments with over 250 employees must now publish their pay gap figures. Those who do not submit their figures face enforcement action from The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).
Across 45% of firms, the pay gap increased in favour of men. Overall, 78% of companies had a gap in favour of men, 14% favoured women, and the rest reported no difference.
This particular study shows that there has been very little to no change from last year’s results- the median pay gap in favour of men lowered slightly from 9.7% last year to 9.6% this year in total.
So what does the future hold for pay disparity?
Progress is certainly being made in terms of raising awareness, and some sports are now taking a more proactive approach in narrowing pay discrepancies, such as tennis. However, the figures evidently speak for themselves. With such little difference between pay gap figures from both 2018 and 2019, it suggests that progress will be slow unless companies begin to take immediate action.
The Trades Union Congress has calculated that at the current rate, it will take around 60 years to achieve pay equality between men and women. Now that employers are forced to publish wage information, there’s hope that this will give businesses the push that they need to begin closing the gap. Employers will now be legally obliged to publish an action plan to demonstrate how they will tackle inequality, as well as advertising job roles on a more flexible basis.
As such, events such as the Women’s World Cup are therefore vital in opening up the discussion for the gender pay gap. While awareness is continuing to be raised regarding this issue, there is clear work that needs to be done in order to bring out realistic change not only within sport, but to society as a whole.