Tiffany O'Donnell is the CEO of Women Lead Change. She joined the organization as COO in 2015, succeeding Diane Ramsey in June of 2017. She is an Emmy-award winning news anchor and reporter who spent nearly 25 years in the television news industry.
The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team taking their fourth World Cup victory is the headline this week, as it should be. Well done!
The story that follows now isn’t the ticker tape parade scheduled for their arrival home, it’s an update on the lawsuit the team filed against the United States Soccer Federation demanding equal pay for equal work. They make a strong case that is being heard as fans reportedly chanted “equal pay” after their championship win. (Here’s a great article for reference.)
I have to wonder why it took so long. Not to diminish the fact that it finally got to this point in women’s sports, but WHY did it take so long. Did they buy into the it’s just the way it is culture? If they did, I wouldn’t fault them, it happens to the best of us.
I’m reminded of a recent example of just that at one of my daughter’s mid-season high school varsity basketball games. The girls team was undefeated (boys were not), ranked high (boys were not) and set to play in a doubleheader against the best team in their class. As scheduled, the girls played the first game and the boys played the second game.
Did you catch that? The girls played the first game, not prime time slot, and the boys played the second game, the prime time slot. According to their records, rankings and stats, remember who the better team was?
Following a girls team nail-biting victory and big upset, we now got ready to watch the boys team play. As we prepared for the starting lineups to be announced, the lights came down, a spotlight hit the gym floor, and The Allen Parsons Project song Sirius began to play (you may know it as the Chicago Bulls theme song). I’m thinking to myself, “Are we in the SAME gym?!”
The girls team: undefeated, ranked, early time slot, no lights and introduction fan fare. Do you see the subtly in the message? I prefer to believe that NO ONE does this on purpose. It’s just the way it is.
When I pointed this out to my daughter, she just shrugged and said I was so extra (ask your teenage network what this means). The point is that she didn’t even notice or, if she did, just navigated around it refusing to let it bother her.
Well, it bothers me. Friends, it’s on all of us to pay attention. The last thing we want is our girls to think this is just the way it is. That their efforts, no matter how impressive, just don’t measure up to those of their male counterparts.
To the U.S. Women’s Soccer team, I salute you and the young soccer player you once were. I have to wonder what you would tell her today. I’m guessing it would be something along the lines of, “The U.S. Women’s Soccer team is the best in the world. It’s just the way it is.”