With March Madness just around the bend, it’s worth returning to an intractable issue facing collegiate athletics: the disparity in opportunity between men and women.
Still – 44 years after the enactment of Title IX – women receive the short straw when it comes to college sports. Each year, men receive $190 million more in athletic scholarships than women. Overall, there are approximately 63,000 fewer participation slots for women in college-level sports. This great difference is in part influenced by the fact that female high school students possess 1.3 million fewer opportunities to play sports than their male counterparts.
As Kelly Wallace points out at CNN, these discrepancies exist regardless of the great feats accomplished by women athletes. Last year, the Princeton women’s basketball team beat the previous most winning college season ever held by the 1970-71 Penn men’s team, winning 30 games and losing zero during the regular season. Combine this with the continued dominance of US women in international tennis and the cultural cache of the highly successful US women’s soccer team, and the fact that institutions (especially those that are publicly funded) are still doing so little to promote and foster women’s athletics is both head-scratching and evidence of a biased system.
The Women’s Sports Foundation – a nonprofit organization – runs a variety of programs aimed at improving the state of gender equity in sports, ranging from wellness programs to get sedentary youth into physical activity to advocacy campaigns to increase the share of women employed by the sports industry. If you are disconcerted at the ongoing disparity in opportunity between men and women in sports (or interested in giving back during this Women’s History Month), consider contributing to this laudable organization.
You can also make a difference by tuning in – the more public support that women’s athletics attract, the harder it will be for detractors to argue for continuing the glaring inequality that currently exists.