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UKG-NWSL Partnership: More Than a Moment — It’s a Movement

UKG announces sponsorship of the NWSL Challenge Cup

A consequential moment in time—that’s how I’d describe it.

It was halftime at the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) 2022 Challenge Cup finals match. The Washington Spirit and North Carolina Courage were tied, 1-1, in a physical battle that would decide who would take home the Cup for the first time in their respective club’s history.

The crowd was enthusiastically cheering as I walked onto the pitch with Jessica Berman, NWSL Commissioner, about to be interviewed by CBS Sports sideline reporter, Marisa Pilla. My initial thought was how amazing it was to be on the same field as world-class athletes who had spent thousands of hours perfecting their craft and dreaming of playing in a game like the one they were engaged in.

I was excited that thousands in the stands and millions around the world were witnessing the same greatness that I was witnessing up close and personal on this special day. Though I recognized that only one team would walk off the pitch as the 2022 Challenge Cup Champions, I also hoped that every one of those amazing athletes would someday acknowledge that this day and this game was even more special than any before it, as this would be the day that a historic partnership between the NWSL and UKG would be etched in stone, with UKG becoming the first-ever title sponsor of the annual NWSL Challenge Cup tournament.

The multimillion-dollar, multi-year partnership that was announced increased the bonus pool for the NWSL players and makes the 2023 UKG NWSL Challenge Cup the first-ever women’s professional soccer tournament to achieve pay equity with their U.S. peers in the men’s game.

I’m always proud to be a U Krewer, but this day brought extra pride. Our company was not only making a moment in sports history but starting a movement with one of the fastest-growing professional sports leagues in the world! We refuse to accept that one organization cannot make a difference in the fight for pay equity. We are proud to stand beside the NWSL and work toward bringing pay equity to a sport that, for too long unfortunately, reflects the working reality of many women.

Sure, sponsoring sports teams and athletes is fun and even a bit glamorous

We’re honored to share the journey with the extraordinary athletes and teams that we sponsor around the world, and we are proud of the intersectional diversity our sponsorship program represents. We love investing in all people.

But our sports sponsorships are not just for show, they also help us to shine a light on and help enact change related to important issues.

Getting involved with professional women’s soccer was a natural fit for the UKG Close the Gap Initiative, a multimillion-dollar pay equity campaign we announced in December 2021, to drive awareness and action to resolve pay disparities among men, women, and underrepresented groups that continue to significantly impact today’s workforce.

UKG is contributing $0.18 — the current gender wage gap — for every, single employee paid each year via a UKG payroll solution toward programs and organizations fighting for equal pay. UKG payroll solutions are used to pay over 15 million employees per year, which means UKG is making a $3 million investment in the critical programs and initiatives that support the fight for pay equity. Our initiative is funding several critical programs, nonprofit groups, awareness-building efforts, education, and research — all in support of pay equity.

Putting a face on pay inequity

When we think about the NWSL partnership, we think about how we can work together to change lives moving forward throughout the league. That’s why we’re also partnering with top players Christen Press and Sydney Leroux, to work alongside us and further advocate for closing the pay gap in every field. It’s important to let those who are impacted share their first-hand experiences and help educate us all.

According to Sydney, “Every player in this league has worked their whole life to play professional soccer and have the means to support themselves and their families. Pay equity goes beyond the average $0.18 less that women are paid for every dollar that a man is paid. It’s about people wanting to live the same quality of life, have the same opportunities, and live the same dreams as others doing the same work.”

For Christen, Close the Gap helps her feel like her voice is being heard. “We have fought long and hard for pay equal to that of our male counterparts, and we need more people to take a stand on closing the pay gap and fighting for fair and consistent pay for everyone, regardless of gender, race, background, or profession.”

It really comes down to equal opportunity for all

At the heart of being a great place to work is providing equal opportunity for all. Employers must recognize a person’s value and compensate them fairly and equitably based on their skills, experience, and the work they perform, no matter their diversity intersection. They must also create equitable opportunity for advancement for all people in their organizations.

Now remember, change doesn’t happen overnight. But we believe that, by partnering with the NWSL and calling attention to the pervasive issue of pay inequity in this world through the UKG Close the Gap Initiative, we are taking meaningful action to support the livelihoods and aspirations of women and underrepresented groups in the workplace, and to help end the decades-long fight for equity for all.

After a hard-fought battle, the North Carolina Courage were victorious and took home the enhanced 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup prize. Congratulations to both the North Carolina Courage and the Washington Spirit on an amazing Challenge Cup competition.

I’m looking forward to celebrating the 2023 UKG NWSL Challenge Cup, an important milestone for pay equity in sports and what I hope is an inspiration for all organizations to take action on this important issue. And, I hope our efforts inspire many other exceptional and world-class athletes to one day have a similar opportunity to share their talents and make history with a proud world watching every moment.

Check out our Resource Center:

  • Let’s support pay equity. Visit ukg.com/closethegap to learn how.
  • Philanthropic support of nonprofits — including Grantmakers for Girls of ColorLeanIn.orgReboot Representation, and 9to5 — that are focused on bringing greater access to education, career, opportunity, and pay equity to women, women of color, and other underrepresented groups. 
  • The Pay Equity in America Research Study, in conjunction with Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, which will examine the existing pay gaps between men and women in the workforce, as well as the progress employers are making nationwide to create more equitable conditions among all genders.
  • Education and awareness programs to develop educational resources for best practices in HR, compensation planning, recruiting, and hiring that are known to support pay equity. UKG will make these resources publicly available to all.
Footnote 1: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021). 2020 Annual Report: Highlights of Women’s Earnings. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/cps/earnings.htm.