Last week, on Thursday March 30, the United States women’s hockey team recorded a historic win: increased pay and support from the country’s governing body of the sport, USA Hockey.
This contract agreement reached its conclusion after a 15-month campaign and the threat of boycotting the upcoming International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships.
“Today reflects everyone coming together and compromising in order to reach a resolution for the betterment of the sport,” USA Hockey President Jim Smith said. “We’ll look back on this day as one of the most positive in the history of USA Hockey.”
Under this new four-year contract, the U.S. team will be compensated approximately $70,000 per player, and that figure has the potential to increase pending success on the ice.
In addition to the raise, this agreement also will provide more funding and support for women and girl’s hockey programs across the country. This will be achieved with the establishment of an advisory committee made up of former players, staff leaders and volunteers.
“We are asking for a living wage and for USA Hockey to fully support its programs for women and girls and stop treating us like an afterthought,” USA captain and forward Meghan Duggan said.
This call for equal treatment brings up broader concerns of gender equality, especially in professional sports. Due to physicality and the nature of our culture’s socialization patterns, professional sports are a male dominated field.
“We have represented our country with dignity and deserve to be treated with fairness and respect,” Duggan said.
Female athletes have begun speaking out, condemning the practices of institutions that do not devote enough time, coverage and resources to all-woman sports programs. This affects more than just the pro-athletes; girls and young women are much more likely to quit playing sports at the collegiate and even the high school level.
Many attribute this to the social implications that are associated with the “ideal” woman as being one without much muscle mass or physical strength. Not recognizing the traits of successful female athletes and giving national attention to their performances leads advocates to see the pro-sports world as perpetuating these cultural stereotypes.
It is not only women who believe in this cause. The men’s national team also reported that they would boycott the world championship games as well. Even though a resolution was reached before they played, having the men stand in support of the women showed unity.
The players’ associations for multiple sports additionally voiced their support for the women since March 15.
The pay inequality between men and women in professional sports is not solely based on gender. Men’s sports are more popular and bring in more revenue. Their tickets and merchandise sell more and the games are well publicized.
It is not shocking that the women demanded more than just monetary compensation; it is the hope that the advisory committee will give more attention to women’s hockey programs not only at the professional level.
By advocating for women in sports, attendance and public interest should increase; thus, the gap between men and women’s sports will slowly get smaller. The goal to become a professional athlete in a sport you are passionate about should be available for every young player—male or female.