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What Employers Can Learn from the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team

Toby Graham /
soccer player holding soccer ball

So, my family’s a huge fan of women’s soccer—especially the U.S. women’s national team. Captains Megan, Carli, and Alex (we’re on a first-name basis) are my daughter’s personal heroes, as are former players like Brandi Chastain, and Mia Hamm. The team’s historic World Cup win basically made my year. Nothing’s even come close to matching the excitement we felt that Sunday in July. (Sorry, Avengers and Game of Thrones people.)

I also respect that they’re championing the cause of equal pay, which has been the topic of many a dinner time conversation at our house. If you haven’t been following the story, the USWNT has advocated for equal pay for the past several years with wage-discrimination actions, lawsuits, and ongoing battles over collective bargaining agreements.

With that in mind, I’d like to share a recent Harvard Business Review article with you that combined these two subjects so near and dear to my heart. In “7 Lessons from the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team’s Fight for Equal Pay,” Ruchika Tulshyan explores wage discrimination through the lens of the USWNT. What’s striking about the article is that it offers lessons both for employees experiencing discrimination and employers facing claims.

Here’s one takeaway Tulshyan gives for employers, for instance:

Take a learning and growth approach to the claims, uncomfortable as it may be. Do not go on the defensive. In [an] attempt to gain support from the public, the U.S. Soccer Federation released a statement claiming that the women’s team had been paid more than the men’s—a comparison that is difficult to make due to the differing pay structures of each team. The women have a base salary, whereas the men are mainly paid based on performance. This act resulted in pushback from the men’s team, who claimed one stat was ‘false accounting,’ and it didn’t look good in the eyes of the public either. A better approach is to review honestly what your organization may be missing to support people who report discrimination. Even if your investigations and data determine that discrimination is not at play, take added steps to understand why employees might be feeling unsupported. Rebuilding trust should be a key focus in these situations.”

Read “7 Lessons from the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team’s Fight for Equal Pay.”

When it comes to recruiting and retaining a skilled workforce, think of the U.S. women’s national soccer team. Don’t settle for anything less than the best. Your organizational culture can attract the Rapinoes and Morgans of your field—or push them away. Every decision, no matter how small, makes a difference. Learn why attitude is everything when facing a potential harassment or discrimination claim.

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