The U.S. women’s national hockey team celebrated a very important victory on Tuesday evening. While it looked entirely different from their typical wins, it’s being called a historic event -- and for good reason.
The team had been planning to boycott the world championships, which begin Friday in Michigan, because of a little (/not so little) thing known as the gender pay gap. Before reaching an agreement this week, USA Hockey had only been paying the women “for training leading into the Olympics, and that was only $6,000 for the six-month residency,” according to ESPN reporter Craig Custance.
Meghan Duggan, team captain, had explained to NPR’s All Things Considered that she and her teammates were paid “only during a six-month period of time out of the four-year Olympic cycle. During that six months, USA Hockey pays the players $1,000 a month for a six-month period. The remaining three and a half years, USA Hockey pays the players virtually nothing."
What will the women be earning now? Custance says the deal -- a four-year agreement that lifted the threatened boycott -- “could mean six figures for the players if they win Olympic gold. By the final year of the four-year agreement, $950,000 will be allocated in a compensation pool for the players.”
This means the team members will be able to devote more time and energy to their training and practice, without as much pressure to earn additional income.
Beyond getting the pay raise, the women’s team will finally be offered the same travel arrangements and daily per diem for non-travel days that the American men’s team has enjoyed. “That American men standouts like Patrick Kane or Ryan Suter got to travel business class to international tournaments while women like Brianna Decker and Megan Bozek traveled in coach says a lot about the inequality in the organization before this agreement,” Custance says. “The deal also includes an escalator clause; if the men's perks increase, the women's will also increase.”
In addition to improved compensation and perks, the deal includes the creation of a Women’s High Performance Advisory Group, providing the team with more of an opportunity to make their voices heard within USA Hockey.
Of course, this agreement was long overdue. But with Equal Pay Day around the corner, it’s especially timely. And beyond providing the women players with more acceptable compensation and benefits, the deal is important because it’s drawn attention to the fight for equal pay.
Hopefully the U.S. Women’s Hockey Team not only sets an example in sports more broadly (and in other industries, for that matter), but also helps to build momentum around these issues so that women everywhere can earn what they deserve.
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