Heading to Victory: Women's Soccer's Pioneering Path to Pay Equity


The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team made game-changing history with its successful gender discrimination lawsuit against their management’s power structure. This critical inquiry utilizes the issues management framework to investigate the social issue of gender pay equity in sports and contextualizes the team’s historical equal rights victory for sport and all business. The paper challenges “dog-whistle” issues like the “market forces myth” regarding broadcasting women’s sport, spotlights a noticeable silence of disparity concerning women’s sports, and recommends strategies to employ when pay equity issues impact an organization’s credibility, reputation among stakeholders, and its economic bottom line. The study advances Dougall’s (2008) five stages issues progress through: early, emergent, current, crisis, and dormant and how stakeholders, publics and influencers must be considered as strategic options for addressing the issue diminish. As an issue moves through these five stages, this study proposes organizations employ eight key strategies: align, accumulate, analyze, appoint, ally, account, accept and adapt. As an issue enters the early and emergent stages, it is important for an organization to align, accumulate, and appoint. When the issue enters the current stage, the organization should be actively allying and accounting. If the issue reaches the crisis stage the organization must accept and adapt to its new environment as by the time the issue becomes dormant the organization is out of strategic options for controlling the situation. Women’s soccer is neither the first women’s sport to demand and win equal pay, nor will it be the last.


David Burns
Professor, Communication Department, Salisbury University, Maryland, United States

Terry Rentner
Professor, School of Media & Communication, Bowling Green State University, Ohio, United States


Presentation Type

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session


Gender Equity and Policy


Gender, Pay Equity, Issues Management, Olympics, US Women's National Soccer

Digital Media


Heading to Victory (pptx)