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Secret deodorant to contribute $529,000 to US women's soccer to address pay gap

Posted at 6:31 AM, Jul 14, 2019

Secret, a sponsor of the US Women's National Soccer team, is now supporting its members' fight for pay equity as well.

The deodorant brand plans to make a "tangible commitment" to the team's demand for equal pay, it told CNN Business, contributing $529,000 to the US Women's National Team Players Association.

In a full-page ad printed in Sunday's New York Times, Secret says it will donate $23,000 for each of the 23 players on the World Cup winning team to help close the pay gap. Secret also urges the organization to "be on the right side of history."

"Let's take this moment of celebration to propel women's sports forward," Secret says in the ad. "We urge the US Soccer Federation to be a beacon of strength and end gender pay inequality once and for all."

Twenty-eight members of the USWNT sued the US Soccer Federation in March for alleged gender discrimination. The suit claims the federation pays the women less than members of the men's national team "for substantially equal work and by denying them at least equal playing, training, and travel conditions; equal promotion of their games; equal support and development for their games; and other terms and conditions of employment equal to the MNT."

In one hypothetical case cited in the lawsuit, if the women's and men's teams both won 20 straight games in a season, the women would make 38% what the men do.

"What the USWNT players want more than anything is real, meaningful change," Becca Roux, the executive director of the US Women's National Team Players Association, told CNN Business.

Secret, the first USWNT sponsor to publicly support the team's fight, also uses the ad to challenges other brands to support the team's quest for equal pay.

When asked if it supports the team's demands for pay equity, a spokesperson for Budweiser maker Anheuser-Busch, another USWNT partner, said it "believes in equal pay for equal work."

Nike, US Soccer's biggest partner, also says it's a strong advocate for pay equity. "Regarding gender equality, Nike has been an advocate for women and girls in the US and around the world," a spokesperson said.

Minutes after the USWNT's World Cup win on July 7, Nike ran a 60-second ad celebrating the team's victory, centering on the concept that the USWNT's win is about more than just winning a soccer title. However, Nike itself has been criticized for reducing athletes' pay during their pregnancies -- a practice it said in May it would discontinue.

Procter & Gamble, Secret's parent company, has a history of using advertising to highlight social causes, including the Always' "Like a Girl" campaign challenging gender stereotypes, Pantene's "Strong is Beautiful" campaign showing NFL players braiding their daughters' hair, and Gillette's "We Believe" ad examining "toxic masculinity."

Secret has released several ads promoting equal pay for women, including one with USWNT player Alex Morgan earlier this year.

"Consumers want to know the values behind the brand they choose and how those values are being put into action," said Damon Jones, vice president of global communications and advocacy at P&G.

Within the walls of P&G has said its internal audits show it pays equitably around the world for similar roles, regardless of gender or ethnicity.

However, the UK's Gender Pay Gap Service found in 2017 that women working for P&G in that country earn nearly 30% less than men.

Critics have also accused the company of putting a so-called 'pink tax' on some products , charging premium prices on items marketed towards women.