Win, Win, Win: Equal Pay Lessons & More From the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team
When you win your fourth Women’s World Cup, let everybody know it’s also about equal pay.
Following the 2-0 win for the U.S. women’s national soccer team in France against the Netherlands, representation for the players who are suing the U.S. Soccer Federation for pay discrimination, made this statement: “At this moment of tremendous pride for America, the sad equation remains all too clear, and Americans won’t stand for it anymore. These athletes generate more revenue and garner higher tv ratings but get paid less simply because they are women. It is time for the Federation to correct this disparity once and for all.”
Taking the moment after achieving what no other women’s team has done ever to highlight pay disparity is a demonstration Leadership Power Tool # 8, created by Gloria Feldt, co-founder and president of of Take The Lead. “Employ Every Medium,” is the tool that recommends you seize every platform possible to create change.
“Use personal, social, and traditional media every step of the way. Use the medium of your own voice. And think of each of the power tools as a medium to be pressed into the service of your ‘Power-To,’” Feldt explains.
CNN reports, “The prize for the 2018 men’s World Cup stood at $400 million, while female players will receive $30 million this year. FIFA President Gianni Infantino said the organization will double it for the next women’s World Cup in 2023, but Rapinoe said there still would be a long way to go.”
“It certainly is not fair,” Rapinoe told CNN. “We should double it now and use that number to double it or quadruple it for the next time.”
The fans agreed. Accordng to Yahoo! Sports,“Equal … pay!” the fans shouted. “Equal … pay!”
“It was coming from American fans and Dutch fans and just fans in general, louder and louder. It was as impossible to ignore as the brilliance of these American players and this American team. FIFA president Gianni Infantino had to sit there and listen to it. U.S. Soccer’s Carlos Cordeiro, and delegates from around the world, did as well.”
Of course throughout the lead-up to the final win, the team demonstrated their excitement before the cameras and the world. And they are not apologizing for being pleased. Or for fighting for closing the gender gap in pay, Bustle reports. Their enthusiasm holds lessons all women leaders and entrepreneurs from early career to the C-suite can embrace.
And this is very American, according to the New York Times.
In a nod to his team’s defeat, England Coach Phil Neville said of the United States, the Washington Post reports, “At the moment, they are the best team, and they are the best team because of that winning mentality.”
That winning mentality is showing up in sales for Nike. According to Reuters, “The USA Women’s Home jersey is now the No. 1 soccer jersey, men’s or women’s, ever sold on Nike.com in one season,” said Mark Parker, Nike’s president and CEO. The soccer jersey sells for $90.
Though successful women leaders for generations have been criticized for being too confident, arrogant or “too full of themselves,” I am reminded of what my mother told me when I was eight-years-old: “Why would you want to be empty of yourself?”
According to the Harvard Business Review, “Research shows… many executives – and especially men – are overconfident. They believe they’re better employees and managers than they actually are and persuade others that they deserve to rise through the ranks. The flip side is that women who are equally competent, but not overconfident, are bypassed.”
Exploring The Confidence Gap in The Atlantic, authors Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, write, “The All-Star WNBA player Monique Currie, of the Washington Mystics, displays dazzling agility and power on the basketball court. On the subject of confidence, however, she sounded disconcertingly like us. Currie rolled her eyes when we asked whether her wellspring of confidence was as deep as that of a male athlete. ‘For guys,’ she said, in a slightly mystified, irritated tone, ‘I think they have maybe 13- or 15-player rosters, but all the way down to the last player on the bench, who doesn’t get to play a single minute, I feel like his confidence is just as big as the superstar of the team. For women, it’s not like that.’”
Knowing that this is a universal feeling for women inside and outside of sports, here are five critical lessons in leading with success that we can gather from the winningest women‘s soccer team in U.S. history.
Make your success about something bigger. This team is making their hard-driving momentum about pay disparities, not just in soccer and sports, but everywhere. They are also about diversity, inclusion and representation. Louis Thomas writes in the New Yorker,“They are all underpaid and underappreciated—certainly by their international federation, FIFA, and arguably by their national one, U.S. Soccer, which they sued on the eve of the tournament. They see themselves as role models and revolutionaries, but they are also something more complicated to describe. They offer a new model on how to be an American citizen, one rooted at once in idealism and pragmatism. (It wasn’t enough to be morally good; the players also knew they had to win.) By their existence and their conduct, they offer an alternative to the nationalism of men who claim a monopoly on the meaning of country and flag.” What can you do in your career to propel a larger conversation?
Share the joy. Success makes every one of us happy. Of course you don’t want to make others feel less than when you win an award or get a promotion and you want to accept all honors with grace. But you do not have to be silent and disguise your joy in winning. And if your win enhances the company and the team, it is natural to be open about your excitement. Megan Rapinoe told Fox Sports. So, “if anyone wants to come at our team for not doing the right thing, not playing the right way, not being the right ambassador for the sport, they can come at us because I think our only crime was an explosion of joy last night,” according to Ozy.
Do not underestimate your success. The women on the 2019 team are not hiding their goals. There’s the old adage that men overestimate their potential, saying they are experts when they are half-way there, and that women underestimate their potential, that when they are 100 percent qualified they say they are not qualified enough. Facing criticism and microagressions at work can contribute to a tendency to downplay your own achievements at work and in public settings. According to the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report, this is common, particularly with women in STEM. So call out your good work. “I quickly embraced me,” said Karen Zito, president and CEO of the Capital Region Builders Association. “You can’t be anybody else but who you are, and knowing that gave me confidence.”
It’s OK to strive for a personal best. Competition is a good thing, even as teammates. You can encourage your team members to excel and also compete with each other. Excellence is attainable for everyone. “The practice of discouraging competition persists for women in the professional world. Women leaders are routinely celebrated for their collaborativeleadership style, a focus on consensus-building and their contributions to a positive workplace culture. As valuable as these traits are, fewer women executives hold leadership roles in divisions responsible for Profit & Loss, which are the gateway to the C-suite,” writes Mercedes Carnethon, Professor of Preventive Medicine and Chief of the Division of Epidemiology at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern in the Chicago Tribune. Carnethon writes, “Once when I interviewed for a leadership position at a medical school, a search committee advised me not to overuse the pronoun ‘I’ in describing my accomplishments. Rather, committee members suggested I emphasize what ‘we’ had done to accomplish ‘our’ goals. The advice was well-intentioned, but I wonder whether men receive similar advice.”
Authenticity builds trust. If you connect with others and have a relationship with colleagues that is genuine, they will trust your leadership. Showing up as someone who does not hide ambition or someone who does not diminish her own success, demonstrates trustworthiness. A new study from Lehigh University examines the “female leadership trust advantage” in Psychology of Women Quarterly and why women manage better than men in crises, reports Science Daily. “People trust female leaders more than male leaders in times of crisis, but only under specific conditions,” said paper co-author Corinne Post, professor of management at Lehigh University. “We showed that when a crisis hits an organization, people trust leaders who behave in relational ways, and especially so when the leaders are women and when there is a predictable path out of the crisis.”
Competition breeds competence. How can you measure your ability and competence if you don’t compete broadly? Operating in isolation you can feel that you are at the top of your game, but you need to know the levels of excellence out there. You don’t necessarily have to beat out all the competition, but you have to know who else is doing what at what level of performance, in order to improve your own performance. You don’t have to compete in The World Cup to know that if you want to be seen as someone who is good at what you do, you have to get out there and play.
Congratulate other’s wins, too. Most women I know talk about their success with an apology saying, “I don’t want to brag, but…” You’re not bragging when you are telling the truth about a win. You also need to congratulate the wins of others on your team, even your competitors in other organizations. Their win is not your loss. Their win is another win for women. Amy Morin, author of 3 Things Mentally Strong Women Don’t Do, writes in CNBC,“Putting others down won’t land you at the top of the pecking order for long–you’ll only keep your position until someone puts you down. When you lift other people up and become a genuine cheerleader, you’ll be much more likely to succeed.”