How to Deal with Gender Inequality in Sports
Looking at today’s fast world, sports has turned out to be a place where individuals can have extraordinary professions in and will likewise have the wages that one can get by owning a business as well, but the posing problem is that it is gender driven. Societal norms have a significant impact on a youth’s life, one of the fields in which it lays impact is sports. The major contributing factor is that since birth, humans observe and learn these gender and societal norms by parents who have inculcated them from their own primary groups. Hence, they place their children into sports according to their gender. If it’s a talented male sportsperson then definitely a good choice to take it up as a career, but if it’s is a woman then they might have to give a second thought to it. This gender biasing is very noticeable among the Major Leagues sports, but it also appears at the collegiate level. My research paper explores disparity in resources, rewards and reassurance provided to men but are not prevalent to women in the sports context.
According to the authors in the article ‘The Gender Gap in Sport Performance: Equity Influences Equality”, athletic performance between men and women is affected by two factors. First being the biological and anatomical differences between the two sexes. Second being the environment and culture which the sportsperson has been brought up in which inevitably affects the rigor with which the person participates in sports, the athletic competence she develops and the training she is provided with.
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Apart from these two factors the major contributor for making the clear-cut distinction between the two genders as different in the field of sports is the gendered expectations. The different categories or classifications in sports in which men and women compete are existent because ‘the weaker sex’ cannot compete with men without having to face a disadvantage. The disadvantage only perceived on the part of people unaware of the facts that in many sport women have performed exceptionally better than men.
Donna Lopaino, Executive Director of Women’s Sports Foundation, provided the statistics for American high school and collegiate sport participation in the book Social issues in American women’s sports by D. Margaret Costa. For instance, fewer than 35 percent of all high school athletes are women, fewer than 34 percent of all college athletes are women, and male athletes receive $179 million more in athletic scholarships each year than their female counterparts. Similarly, collegiate institutions spend 24 per cent of the athletic operating budgets, 16 per cent of their recruiting budgets and 33 per cent of the scholarship budgets on female athletes, and, fewer than 1 per cent of all coaches of men’s teams and fewer than 46 per cent of all coaches of women’s teams are female. These statistics clearly indicate how the inequality starts right from the schooling years and then is further carried in professional leagues. These norms selective to one gender are inculcated or conditioned while the children are in a tender age of learning. It becomes obvious how this social schema turns into a cycle of these children later making the next generation learn the same.
Talking about Title IX (D Margaret Costa 2004) “it (Title IX) continues to be a double-edged sword”. On the upside the participation of women rose, around 205 teams were added and more than half of them in Division II and Division II of NCAA. Women’s basketball grew more as the signed $160 million deal with ESPN for eleven years that to not just for the sponsorship but also on agreement of broadcast of all games (Women’s Sports Foundation 2002). On the opposite end, the percentage of women handling/leading coaching jobs, women’s NCAA teams and other athletic program came down by staggering amount from 90 to 17.1 percent and that is after the implementation of Title IX. Further speaking, Male athletes received around $179 million worth of scholarships more than women and less than 40 percent is spent on women athletes be it operating or recruiting or scholarships
After Title IX proving to be incomplete in its efforts to remove gender inequality, the large difference in wage gaps between male and female sports persons poses as another obstruction towards achieving gender equality in the sports field. In the article ‘100 Women: Is the gender pay gap in sport really closing?’ by Valeria Perasso has many statistics mentioned that clearly indicate the wage gap still persisting in today’s sports scenario. For instance, For the US women’s football team, their win in the 2015 World Cup got them a $2m (£1.5m) reward. Meanwhile in the male version of the tournament, the winners were handed $35m (£26.5m) just a year earlier. Similarly, In the ranking of the 100 highest-paid athletes, there is just one woman – tennis star Serena Williams she’s in position 51 and has an income that is $66m yet £50m lower than Cristiano Ronaldo’s, the world’s top earning sportsman according to Forbes.
Income is a very important aspect of an adult’s life and integral for one’s esteem. Women athletes put in as much hard work as the male athletes invest, the females have equal achievements and also they have outshined men in many instances. Yet still they are paid less. Women who achieve so much and yet do not enjoy the benefits of their hard work only discourages leading them to become unmotivated and therefore quitting sports in extreme cases. If a woman achieves a height in sports it is tagged as an exceptional achievement while when a man excels it was already expected from them that men will always perform brilliantly. Women are yet again considered to be inferior in the sports world than the other gender on the basis of cultural norms that had been created in the past which do not seem to be applicable in the present modernised society.
In the article ‘5 Inequalities Female Athletes Still Face, Even if they’re World Champs’ by Julie Zeilinger has talked about five inequalities women still face in the sports field. Apart from biased media coverage and difference in wage gaps the other three inequalities were that women were expected to play under different conditions, they are still seen as primarily valuable as caregivers and they’ve been sexualized and objectified.
In the article ‘Title IX: AN Incomplete Effort to Achieve Equality in Sports’ by Leslie Francis talks about how this law as a part of the Educational Amendments in 1972 had failed to achieve its goal to eradicate gender discrimination, in spite of its success to increase the participation of women in sports. Supporters state that of it failed to uplift the position of women in the sports industry and critics state that in some sports participation of men decreased. Efforts of Title IX proved to be incomplete as a law couldn’t change the way society and the people viewed sports as a field. Media coverage of women sports was not as half of men’s sports coverage. People watching at home preferred to watch men’s category of sports than a women’s category being telecast-ed on the T.V set.
The lack of coverage (Bishop, 2003; Cooky, Messner, & Hextrum, 2013) and marginalization of women’s sports (Cranmer, Brann, & Bowman, 2014; Kim, Sagas, & Walker, 2011) are themes that have been consistently present across research examining print, television, and online content. Ninety-nine videos in total were analysed. On analysing they came to know that 88% were males and 11 % were females and there were only 1% of the videos in which both men and women were interviewed. Each video was about biomechanical analyses of specific skill set for different sports by elite level athletes. According to the rating, Male athlete’s videos were slightly higher than the ones focused on female athletes. Except one all the participants were from the states. These studies clearly proving the fact that there is gendered dominance to a great extent in the media part of the sports.
Even after much modernization of the society women are still an object considered by the society whose role is that of a caregiver, the one who looks after the household and will always be considered inferior to the male gender. This division was made in the past when the society needed a structure to function and hence the patriarchal society was former. Even after much modernization this system still functions which is not needed. Since women have proved they are in no way less than men even in sports field, the system of the society calls for a change.
All the public’s take on what is going in on the sports or any other thing is based upon what the advertisements, the newspapers, the news channels display. Similarly, Media has always played a crucial role in forming sort of an aspect/opinion on sports because whatever is showed on the news channels, or the interviews is what the public will rely on mostly. Interviews is one of the great examples to portray the discrimination and also a great way to show people’s perspective towards sports as well. The Discrimination between the sportsmen and women could be further seen when we look at the interviews that are conducted by the media. The YouTube video “ If Male athletes Were asked Questions Aimed at Female Athletes” by BellTime Mag show a highlight of different interviews of the time when sportsmen are asked question not related to sports and show how they react to it, like one of the players in NBA, after the game in the locker room was asked to give a twirl and tell about the outfit rather than asking about game and the players reaction was shocking, similarly a NHL player was asked about dating one the female fans rather than asking about the game, and he gave no response at all.
Seeing this a general person who would follow sports would obviously react in a strong angry way as these are not the appropriate question to ask, the fans would want to know what the player feels during and about the game and the environment the mentality going into further games or the plan that is in their mind for upcoming games and other such stuff rather than see them talk about their outfit. Nevertheless, when the same question was asked to a female tennis athlete to give a twirl the whole stadium shouted like cheered in happiness or something, we can totally see the difference between general public’s reaction to the questions asked to the players, just because a tennis player did not refuse and react on the question and just because of the mind set of people thinking about girls as just sex objects they are happy seeing such stuff but on the other hand when a sports man is asked such question nothing as such happens.
Women who play sports, even in high school, aren’t really taken seriously by the public. One of the reasons why that is the case is because women have been thought of as caretakers and housewives for decades or as sex objects. An article written by Susan Milligan says “…until this year, female beach volleyball players were required to wear tiny bikinis when they played. This is not sensible gear for any sport, and really served no other purpose other than to make the athletic effort look frivolous (especially compared to the male beach volleyball players, who wear shirts as well as shorts)” (Milligan). This sexist dress code was eventually removed, and the female volleyball players were finally allowed to wear uniforms that made sense for the sport. Making females wear uniforms so revealing is not only disrespectful, but it also shows the viewers that the female athletes are not taken seriously and are only there for male entertainment. Milligan also mentions that female boxers had to fight with the Amateur International Boxing Association in order to not be forced to wear skirts. She says the female boxers were told they needed to wear the skirts to help distinguish them from the male boxers. Not only do male and females look different, but they also are covered by television and news differently so if the viewers couldn’t determine which boxer was male and which was female without the skirt, they could just look at which matches had more media coverage, according to Milligan.
Milligan also writes that male athletes do not wear uniforms that are designed to attract female viewers as is the case for female athletes. By having female athletes dressing to attract male viewers, it is discouraging the parents of young girls to allow them to participate. Parents don’t want their children to be sexualized or looked at like a piece of meat up for grabs, so it makes sense why there are so little female athletes becoming professional athletes.
Kelly Wallace from CNN wrote about the difference between male and female sports inequalities and said “The average salary for a WNBA player is $72,000, which doesn’t include bonuses and benefits, while the average salary for an NBA player is around $5 million, or about 70 times what the average female basketball player makes” (Wallace). This isn’t just a professional sports level problem either. Wallace says that male athletes in colleges receiving federal funds, are getting $190 million more per year in athletic scholarships than the women athletes are. These colleges that are receiving federal funds are required by the Title IX law to not discriminate based on sex. Clearly this is not being followed by all because if it were, there would be little to no difference in athletic scholarship monetary values between the male and female athletes. Title IX is only 40 years old, making women’s sports still quite young so equality is still on its way.
Another issue that is leading to less coverage of female sports, is the lack of viewers. Many people, male and female, prefer to watch male sports. Because of this, women’s sports don’t get much funding. Once people want to watch and attend women’s sports events, money will go to their cause, according to Michael Graber, a sports cinematographer.
Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd, Hope Solo, and Becky Sauerbrunn, all members of the U.S Women’s National Soccer Team USWNT, filed a wage discrimination action with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against the U.S. Soccer Federation. The allegations include a claim that, despite bringing in twenty million dollars more than the men’s team, the women still earn a quarter of the men’s salary. Per the allegations, “Each player on the USWNT earns $99,000 per year provided the team wins twenty ‘friendlies’ (exhibition matches), the minimum number of matches they would play. By contrast, each men’s player would earn $263,320 for the same feat and would still earn $100,000 if the team lost all twenty games. The women receive no extra pay for playing more than twenty matches, while the men earn anywhere between $5,000 and $17,625 for each match beyond twenty.”Based upon the allegations, the EEOC will conduct an investigation and determine if the USWNT is due compensation. Instead of U.S. Soccer negotiating a settlement with USWNT, it sued the team, seeking an injunction that requires USWNT to continue to play at least through the 2016 Olympics.
The main question that arises is “What effect does the pay gap have on women?”. I think paying men more for the same sports is completely wrong because if women are competing on the same level as men disparity should not exist. Paying women less leads players to quite the game and discourages participation. For example, let’s talk about the star of WNBA Diana Taurasi she plays for the team Phoenix Mercury in the 2015-2016 WNBA season she sat out in the entire season and surprisingly she made more money sitting outside than she would have actually made while playing the game. Like other players of her team she plays overseas during the off-season period. Unlike U.S who pays just $111,500 for her caliber she is paid approximately a million dollar playing in overseas during off-season.
An article from the Women’s Sports Foundation gives a list of ways to help female athletes get the proper recognition they deserve. Included in the list is attending women’s sporting events, encouraging young girls to participate in sports, volunteering to coach a girls’ sports team (recreational or high school level), and supporting companies that advocate for women’s athletics. It also goes into detail about how male college athletes receive 55% of NCAA scholarships even though female athletes make up 43% of college student populations. It also says that women’s sports teams only get 40% of college sport operating funding and a mere 36% of team recruitment spending. (Pay Inequity in Athletics)
Not only are the female players affected by the inequalities, the coaches are also suffering. The article on Womens Sports Foundation says “Median head coaches’ salaries at NCAA Division I-FBS schools are $3,430,000 for men’s teams and $1,172,400 for women’s teams. This is a difference of $2,257,600 (NCAA, 2012)” (Pay Inequity in Athletics). This is a great explanation for why there are a small number of female teams in the US for sports because the coaches are also getting paid less. No one wants to do the same work for the same sport at the same college and get paid a third of what the male team’s coach is getting paid.
Once the world can accept female athletes and male athletes are equal, the salary, scholarship, and funding differences will start to disappear. Teach your girls to play sports and accel in school. Teach your boys to ditch the phrase “play like a girl” when insulting someone on their athletic ability. Teach your children that everyone can do anything they set their mind to regardless of their gender. Once that happens, we can start the change that the world of sports so desperately needs.
- Capranica, Laura, et al. “The Gender Gap in Sport Performance: Equity Influences Equality.” International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, vol. 8, no. 1, 2013, pp. 99–103., doi:10.1123/ijspp.8.1.99.
- Costa, D. Margaret. “Social Issues in American Women’s Sports.” Sport and Women Social Issues in International Perspective, by Ilse Hartmann-Tews and Gertrud Pfister, Routledge, 2004
- Francis, Leslie, “Title IX: An Incomplete Effort to Achieve Equality in Sports” (2016). Utah Law Faculty Scholarship. 92. https://dc.law.utah.edu/scholarship/92
- Milligan, Susan. “Female Olympic Athletes Still Not Taken Seriously.” U.S. News & World Report, U.S. News & World Report, 2012, www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/susan-milligan/2012/07/30/female-olympic-athletes-still-not-taken-seriously.
- “Pay Inequity in Athletics.” Women’s Sports Foundation, www.womenssportsfoundation.org/research/article-and-report/elite-athletes/pay-inequity/.
- Perasso, Valeria. “100 Women: Is the Gender Pay Gap in Sport Really Closing?” BBC News, BBC, 23 Oct. 2017, www.bbc.com/news/world-41685042.
- Shifflett, Bethany, et al. “Gender Bias in Sports-Media Analytics.” Journal of Sports Media, vol. 11, no. 2, 2016, pp. 111–128., doi:10.1353/jsm.2016.0014.
- Wallace, Kelly. “The Real March Madness: When Will Women’s Teams Get Equal Buzz?” CNN, Cable News Network, 2016, www-m.cnn.com/2015/03/30/living/feat-march-madness-womens-sports-attention-money-men/index.html?r=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.bing.com%2Fsearch%3Fq%3Dwhy%2Bare%2Bwomen%2Bnot%2Btaken%2Bseriously%2Bin%2Bprofessional%2Bsports%26form%3DEDGTCT%26qs%3DPF%26cvid%3Da0d8988eca8e4573aa8d196f646020e9%26refig%3Df7dbb7567859499cb57911ec19b0c446%26cc%3DUS%26setlang%3Den-US%26PC%3DLCTS.
- Zeilinger, Julie. “5 Ridiculous Inequalities Female Athletes Still Face – Even When They’re World Champs.” Mic, Mic Network Inc., 5 Oct. 2015, mic.com/articles/121847/5-inequalities-female-athletes-still-face-even-if-they-re-world-champs#.bhel3UmTO.