This summer was huge for the fight for equal pay—thanks largely to the very high-profile crusade of the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team leading up to and following their World Cup victory. But the battle for equal pay and playing conditions isn’t happening only in soccer. It’s sweeping the world of sports—and the women of the WNBA just won big.
For over a year, the players have been fighting for fair pay and play—bigger paychecks and better benefits—and today, thanks to a new eight-year collective bargaining agreement (CBA), they’re about to see it starting with the 2020 season. “The 2020 CBA features significant investments by the league and its teams aimed directly at increasing player salary and compensation, improvements to the overall player experience, resources specifically designed with the professional female athlete in mind, as well as a commitment to implement an integrated marketing plan league-wide,” the league said in a press release.
First, there’s the straight-up salary situation. There will be 53% increase in total cash compensation, which is made up of base salary, performance bonuses, prize pools for new in-season competitions, and league and team marketing deals. Under the new agreements, the top players will be able to earn over $500,000, which is triple the previous deal. Other players will have the chance to earn between $200,000 and $300,000.
This is historic. As the release notes, the women of the WNBA will average a six-figure salary for the first time in league history.
But this isn’t just about the money, though that is obviously important. The CBA also guarantees a better player experience when it comes to travel, guaranteeing an individual hotel room for each player and an upgraded class of plane travel. It’s an issue that has plagued women across sports as male athletes get the first-class treatment and female athletes are on the ultra-budget plan. (Can you imagine asking Steph Curry or LeBron James to bunk up with someone on the road or cram into a coach seat on the way to a game? No, you cannot, and these elite athletes should not be forced to do so either.)
The WNBA will also institute new maternity and child care policies. For example, players will receive their full salaries while on maternity leave, a new annual child care stipend of $5,000, safe and private spaces for nursing mothers, and an up to $60,000 reimbursement for veteran players to offset the costs of adoption, surrogacy, egg freezing, or infertility treatment. Players will also have access to enhanced mental health benefits, education and counseling related to domestic/intimate partner violence, and career development support that could include off-season job opportunities with league partners.
These changes still don’t amount to equality, but they’re a huge an important step—one that could be a model for female athletes across sports. In negotiations between the players and the WNBA, “we found common ground in areas that confirmed the league’s and the players’ intentions to not only make meaningful improvements in working conditions and overall professional experience, but also to improve the business with strategic planning and intentional marketing that will keep the WNBA front and center year-round,” said Nneka Ogwumike, president of the WNBA Players’ Association.
Let this be a sign for more progress for all women in the workplace in 2020.