The US National Team lifts the world cup in 2019 (Photo: AppaIoosa on Flickr).
The US National Team lifts the world cup in 2019 (Photo: AppaIoosa on Flickr).

Equal Pay for Equal Play

Teaching about the gender pay gap with women football.

How is the gender pay gap reflected in women’s football and what can be done to change it? How do we help students reflect on this?

A hot topic

In the past few years, the gender pay gap has once again gained a prominent position in debates across Europe and beyond. From Iceland, where in 2018 a breakthrough law on gender pay equality made global news, to Finland where, in the same year, more than 82% of the gender pay gap was closed, to Slovenia, which recorded the lowest gender pay gap in Europe, this topic is often among the national and international headlines.

But how do we define gender gap? How do we help our students understand this abstract concept, recognise its relevance today and, why not, engage in the debate on potential solutions?

Kevin Kendall, author of the new Football Makes History Lesson Plan on “Equal Pay for Equal Play”, believes that recent developments in women football, and especially Megan Rapnoe’s (a member of the US National Football Team, winner of the World Cup in 2019) vocal involvement in the fight to close the gender pay gap in the United States can help.

Defining and re-defining the issue

The activity was developed by Kevin to help secondary school students define and re-define complex concepts such as sexism, discrimination, and the gender pay gap. It can be used in connection to news items, to connect the past with current events, during civics lessons, or as part of bigger teaching modules on feminism and the labour movement after the First and Second World Wars.

Broadly speaking, “Equal Pay for Equal Play” is divided into three main phases. In the first phase, students reflect on how they would define sexism, discrimination, and gender pay gap, both individually and with the help of several news videos and short documentaries. In the second phase, students are asked to carry out a (guided) analysis of one or more articles on cases of gender pay gap in football and present their findings to each other. In the third phase, students discuss again the definitions of sexism, discrimination, and gender pay gap, to verify if their perception of these has changed.

To make sure that the activity can be transferred to as many national contexts as possible, we have developed two lesson plans: a core lesson plan that would take about 1 hour to complete and that is ideal to use with younger students or students who do not feel too comfortable approaching sources in English; an extended lesson plan that would take 2 hours and can be used with more experienced students. In addition, the activity suggests several articles and videos that can be used. This is not an exhaustive list, and the teaching strategy proposed can be applied also to different articles, perhaps in your national language.

An engaging guiding question to talk about inclusion

All the activities suggested within Equal Pay for Equal Play will tackle the question “How is the gender pay gap reflected in women’s football and what can be done to change it?” and help students:

  • Develop and awareness of what is sexism and how stereotypes can influence gender-based discrimination;
  • Understand what is the gender pay gap, and how it manifests, using women’s football as an example;
  • Learn how women have fought for pay equity and workplace equality, using sports to make the topic more accessible;
  • Reflect on methods to overcome the gender pay gap.

Get the resource

You can find our activity “Equal Pay for Equal Play” on Historiana. You can find more context information on Megan Rapinoe in our Life Stories, and more context on gender history at this link

If you would like to access more activities on women football, sexism, and gender-based discrimination, check out our activities on “Revealing the Historic Inequalities within Women’s Football”, on “Women’s struggle for equality and respect in the game” (focusing on sexism in advertisment campaigns), and on “Imitators of Men – Reflecting on how public figures impact social change”. We invite you also to check out: the Anti-Defamation League, ClioHistory, and PBS NewsHour. Our activity is inspired by several resources available on these websites

Read more on Historiana website

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The US National Team lifts the world cup in 2019 (Photo: AppaIoosa on Flickr).
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