Viewership, revenue and prize money for the Women’s World Cup is reaching new heights. Can business learn from this?

Many female players have long been campaigning for equal pay but the full scale of the disparity was revealed in 2019 when the US Women’s National Team filed a lawsuit to access comparable pay data for the men’s team. The disparity was shocking and as a result of public pressure, things have changed.

The Women’s World Cup currently taking place in Australia is getting $150 million in prize money, a 300% increase over 2019. While this is still only a third of the $440 million received by the men in the Qatar World Cup, this is a giant step towards equal pay for equal work in the women’s game.

Football federations justify pay gaps by pointing out differences in game attendance and sponsorship between men’s and women’s matches. But the field is not balanced in the first place when female players are denied the resources they need to drive growth in the first place.

FIFA exists to govern football and to develop the game around the world and at grass roots level. Its target is not to make more revenue or profit but to get more people playing and watching the sport. This requires investment and an even handed approach to all comers.

In England, women’s football was banned until 1971. In Brazil, it was 1981. The football associations have a responsibility to bridge the pay gap but if their objective is to develop the game for all audiences then greater and more balanced investment for the long-term development of the game is even more important.

Turning to business, while similar disparities exist, organisations need to examine how company policies, programmes, and culture drive inequity, and then work cross-functionally to address root causes. Good intentions and commitment to fairness isn’t enough. If we really want pay equity in the workplace and to accelerate the change, then we need companies to be transparent on pay and demonstrate this parity.

Build a fair approach to pay in business

While some businesses are proactively moving towards pay transparency by publishing pay ranges and communicating clearly to employees and others, a recent survey of 500 organisations found only 24% of respondents were taking this step. Most are still reluctant to move which raises the question of whether they are genuinely committed to pay equity.

Never assume you know the answer – test and research – then test again.

Whether organisations choose to be more transparent or not, this change is inevitable. Due to the lack of progress, we have seen a number of states in the US mandate pay transparency and a similar pay transparency directive is being introduced in the EU. It will come.

Managers should recognise that pay secrecy enables inequity. Shedding light on compensation structures through open communication and data sharing is a vital first step.

React quickly

Equity at work, as in sports is about more than pay – it signals who and what we value as a society. Managers have an obligation to reflect on their role in perpetuating pay gaps, and how they can help build a more just system for all.

Be transparent and open.

The fight for equal pay persists, but just like women’s football, progress comes through pay transparency, re-evaluation, and systemic change. Football and businesses alike can step up and win at this.

Be positive about change; positive about progress.