I think we can all agree that, as a country, we have not yet reached gender equity. Women still face gender-based disadvantages and discrimination in many different environments. Sports is an area in which the gender inequity is particularly prevalent. Women’s sports have fewer fans, get less airtime on TV, and attract lower salaries than male players. Often times, we hear women’s athletic accomplishments being degraded with statements such as, “Well they are good, for girls” or “A boy’s team could beat them easily.”
In the past, many other under-represented groups of people have had to rise up and defeat discrimination and inequality in sports. Usually, a few brave leaders of these groups fight their way to a spot on a team and inspire people like them to do the same.
Women have already done this. They have established professional women’s teams, and there are plenty sportswomen to look up to for leadership, such as Serena Williams and Ronda Rousey. These outstanding women can inspire young girls to get involved with sports and prove that they can find great success in doing so.
Although a great number of women athletes participate in professional sports, gender inequality still exists. While it is important to have athletes such as Williams and Rousey, the issue extends beyond encouraging girls to do sports. What we need are more women coaches, managers, and other executives in professional sports.
When viewers change the channel to ESPN or another sports network, even excluding athletes, they see almost only men. Men are reporters, men are holding press conferences, and men are on the sidelines making decisions and telling athletes what to do.
In Major League Baseball, for example, Kim Ng, Senior Vice-President for Baseball Operations, made the news for being one of only two female executives in the professional sport. No team has ever had a female general manager. In the NFL, all head coaches are men and Kathryn Smith and Jen Welter stand out as the only female coaches in the league.
The lack of female executives may be a consequence of the pre-existing male prominence in professional athletes (maybe men want to coach their own gender and women theirs). However, plenty of men coach women’s sports, such as the coaches of the national women’s hockey team and a large percentage of female professional tennis players.
The people in these prominent, executive positions are the ones who are making the decisions about how sports are played and watched in our country. Coaches and managers have control over which athletes are on their teams. Writers and reporters for sports TV programs and websites decide what athletes to cover in the content that they share to the world. If all of this control is given to almost only men, how can women in sports find equal opportunities and appreciation?
If theses positions are filled with unequal numbers of women and men, women cannot expect to find equality in sports, themselves.