UKG and National Women’s Soccer League Announce Historic Pay Equity Milestone

2023 UKG NWSL Challenge Cup levels the playing field to rally national support for pay equity with million-dollar prize pool
April 13, 2023, LOWELL, Mass., and WESTON, Fla.

Bringing the first-ever million-dollar prize pool to U.S. women’s soccer, UKG, a leading provider of HR, payroll, and workforce management solutions for all people, and the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) will make history on April 19 when the 2023 UKG NWSL Challenge Cup kicks off. In its first year as the tournament’s title sponsor, UKG aims to not only bring pay equity to the world of professional sports, but also to shed light on the need for continued commitment by employers across every industry to focus on achieving equity of opportunity and equity of pay for women and other underrepresented groups.

“UKG’s equity-driven sponsorship of the 2023 UKG NWSL Challenge Cup solidifies a historic win for NWSL athletes who have persistently fought to claim a level playing field,” said Jessica Berman, NWSL commissioner. “Our athletes have long been on equal footing with their male counterparts in terms of skill and ability, and UKG’s partnership is critical to advancing the league’s extensive efforts to raise awareness and rectify the unfair reality that women on and off the field are being short-changed, literally.”

Key Takeaways   

  • After already increasing the bonus pool tenfold in 2022, UKG will double the prize pool for the 2023 UKG NWSL Challenge Cup, representing a significant step forward in reaching pay parity with the U.S. men’s game.
  • UKG is again collaborating with NWSL athletes Sydney Leroux and Christen Press to rally national awareness and support for pay equity by challenging everyone to level the playing field.
  • In conjunction with the tournament kickoff, UKG and the NWSL are launching a co-branded “Challenge Accepted” campaign emphasizing unwavering support for equity on and off the field.

“UKG is committed to being part of the solution that addresses the complex and systemic nature of pay inequities and leads to a fully equitable future for all. We’re up for the challenge,” said Pat Wadors, chief people officer at UKG, which has pledged to invest millions in critical programs, awareness initiatives, and nonprofits making measurable change for women and other marginalized groups beyond the world of professional sports. “In the spirit of the game, we challenge other organizations to join us and turn talk into action. Creating an ‘ecosystem of equity’ takes commitment from all levels of an organization. One step at a time makes a huge difference.”

[Watch Pat Wadors moderate a LinkedIn Live panel with Lauren Lopez, NWSL chief people officer, and Brian K. Reaves, UKG chief belonging, diversity, and equity officer, on creating an equity ecosystem for all.]

Making good on its own commitment to close the gap, and following its unique pledge to invest 17 cents — the current gender wage gap1 — for every employee paid through a UKG payroll solution per year, UKG will contribute more than $3 million toward raising awareness and supporting organizations that are making tangible strides in building equity in education, representation, and opportunity in the workplace. This includes financial contributions to nonprofit organizations Grantmakers for Girls of Color,, Reboot Representation, and 9to5.

“Every person doing every kind of work deserves to be paid equitably and shown that their time and talents are valued,” said Angel City FC forward Christen Press, who was first to sign with the 2022 expansion team, recognized as the first majority women-owned professional sports franchise in the U.S.2 “Raising awareness about the pay gap and other disparities between men and women at work is easy. Convincing the masses to take action, right here, right now, is the challenge — but I’m here for it, and so is UKG.”

Despite progress made on multiple fronts to increase exposure to equitable opportunity, education, and employment, reports analyzing the gender pay gap in the U.S.3 and the broad status of global gender parity4 confirm that women — especially women of color and other intersecting identities — will continue to earn less than men for generations, if nothing changes.

“The 2023 UKG NWSL Challenge Cup is a pivotal moment for all of us. I hope that every woman and girl watching finds inspiration to keep pushing for progress while fighting for her own right to fair pay, equitable opportunity, and wellbeing at work,” said Angel City FC forward Sydney Leroux. “We need more companies like UKG standing in our corner and taking meaningful action to support the livelihoods and aspirations of all people, regardless of gender or any other intersection that defines them. I challenge every company to follow in UKG’s footsteps.”

The 2023 UKG NWSL Challenge Cup tournament kicks off April 19, with weekly Wednesday night matches scheduled concurrently with the league’s regular season and airing on Paramount+ and CBS Sports platforms. The tournament concludes with semifinals on Wednesday, September 6, and the final on Saturday, September 9. Promotional campaigns from UKG and the NWSL, including “Challenge Accepted,” go live this month. Follow along using #ChallengeAccepted.

About UKG

At UKG, our purpose is people. As strong believers in the power of culture and belonging as the secret to success, we champion great workplaces and build lifelong partnerships with our customers to show what’s possible when businesses invest in their people. Born from a historic merger that created one of the world’s leading HCM cloud companies, our Life-work Technology approach to HR, payroll, and workforce management solutions for all people helps more than 75,000 organizations around the globe and across every industry anticipate and adapt to their employees’ needs beyond just work. To learn more, visit

About NWSL

The National Women’s Soccer League is the premier women’s professional soccer league in the world featuring national team players from around the globe. The clubs are Angel City FC, Bay Area, Chicago Red Stars, Houston Dash, Kansas City Current, NJ/NY Gotham FC, North Carolina Courage, OL Reign, Orlando Pride, Portland Thorns FC, Racing Louisville FC, San Diego Wave FC, Utah Royals FC, and Washington Spirit.

Footnote 1: Median earnings for women in 2022 were 83.0 percent of the median for men, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 25, 2023.

Footnote 2: As reported by Fast Company.

Footnote 3: According to an analysis of the U.S. gender pay gap published by Pew Research Center on March 1, 2023.

Footnote 4: According to global data published by the World Economic Forum on March 8, 2023.

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