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The Gender Pay Gap in Soccer and Sales

Following the Women's World Cup, gender pay gaps came into focus, but they aren't limited to sports. Learn how you can eliminate pay differences in your company.

5 min read

This is a post by Xactly Chief Human Resources Officer, Leanne Bernhardt. Leanne is a 15-year industry veteran and supports Xactly's rapid worldwide growth and continued focus on employee engagement.


Like many Americans, I loved cheering on the U.S. National Women’s Soccer Team throughout their successful quest to become the first team in history to win four Women's World Cup titles. The technical skills, strength, and teamwork displayed by every person on the field was incredible to watch play out. And yet, as we move past the thrill of an exciting win on the world stage, another conversation around this incredible team is only beginning—the players’ (and their fans’) fight against the enormous pay gap that exists between the U.S. National Women’s Soccer Team and their male counterparts. 

Unfortunately, pay gaps like this one aren't limited to national sports teams or famous athletes. The gender pay gap remains an enormous problem in this country, and around the world. Experts estimate that women are paid, on average, 79 cents for every dollar a man makes, and the gap is even more significant for women of color. 

What's Causing the Pay Gap?

The pay gap is a result of a combination of factors, including implicit and explicit bias and a lack of transparency surrounding pay. As a Chief HR Officer, I have made eliminating the gender pay gap within my own company a core aspect of my job. And since my company, Xactly works with sales leaders, we’ve made it our job to raise awareness of the pay gap in the sales as well. 

As part of our efforts to do that, we recently published the results of a study that we conducted on this very issue, "The State of Gender Equality in Sales." What we found was that sales departments have a long way to go in terms of eliminating the pay gap – despite the fact that, like the U.S. National Women’s Soccer Team, women in sales are consistently outperforming their male counterparts.

We found that men in sales are paid more than women, even though women in sales tend to meet or exceed their quotas at a higher rate. We also found that diverse sales teams led by women ultimately perform better, with higher win and attainment rates compared with teams led by men. 

What You Can Do About the Pay Gap in Your Organization

Experts agree that the gender pay gap is not going to disappear on its own, but we can combat it by building awareness of the issue, like the U.S. National Women’s Soccer Team and their fans have demonstrated, and by implementing strategic controls within our own organizations to monitor for inequity and put a stop to it. I hope that fellow leaders will take a stand on this issue and join me in working to eliminate the gender wage gap wherever it exists—whether that’s on the field or in the office.

Want to learn more about paying fairly in your organization? Download the "Complete Guide to Sales Team Compensation" to discover how to adjust pay for different roles on your sales team.