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Empowering Women in Sports

Women Still on the Sidelines

College Sports

Women increased their representation as college athletes as a result of Title IX. In 1972,women comprised only 15.6% of college athletes. As of 1993, that percentage has grown to 34.8%. These statistics are deceptive, however, because since the early 1980s the percentage of women athletes has been increasing very slowly, and in some years has decreased. In 1981-82 women were 30.5% of athletes and that percentage increased only to 34.8% in 1992-93.3.

While more women are playing college sports now, there are more men college athletes as well. In 1972, there were 31,852 women athletes and 172,447 men athletes at National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) member institutions. By 1993 there were 99,859 women athletes and 187,041 men athletes.4 Often coaches of men's sports try to argue against gender equity, saying it takes away opportunities from men. But this has not proven to be true. (See Chart 1).

Women are also shortchanged in athletic funding. In 1991, at the request of the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletic Administrators, the NCAA conducted a study analyzing expenditures for women's and men's athletics. The study revealed major inequities in the funding of men's and women's college athletics. The NCAA themselves called the findings "disturbing." Although the numbers of women and men on campus were roughly equal, the NCAA found that men received 70% of scholarship money, 77% of operating budgets, and 83% of recruiting money.5 The inequities deny women not only the equal opportunity to benefit from sports, but sometimes the opportunity to attend college at all because they were not offered an athletic scholarship.

High School Sports

Girls entered high school sports rapidly after the passage of Title IX. In 1972, only 7% of interscholastic athletes were girls. By 1992, 37% of those athletes were female. Since the late 70s, however, the percentage of girl athletes has been increasing very slowly or decreasing. In 1977-78, girls were about 32% of athletes, and this percentage has grown only an additional 5% -- to 37% -in 1992-93.6 If this trend continues, it will take girls about 40 years --until the year 2033 -- to achieve parity.7

Even more disturbing, a study by the Department of Education shows that the percentage of high school girl sophomores who participate in athletic teams has actually declined from 1980 to 1990. In 1980, 46% of 10th-grade girls were members of interscholastic or intramural athletic teams, but only 41% in 1990. The percentage of boys who participated in athletics remained steady at 63%.8.

As with college athletics, the addition of girl athletes in high school has not proven to take away opportunities for boys to play sports. In 1972, 49% of high school boys were athletes; by 1993, 52% of high school boys were athletes.9 There were 817,073 girls and 3,770,621 boys participating in interscholastic athletics in 1972. 10 By 1993, with declining high school enrollments, 1,997,489 girls and 3,416,389 boys were high school athletes. No national data are currently available on expenditures for girls' and boys' athletics in high school.

Women as Coaches and Athletics Administrators

There are still significantly fewer women coaches and administrators than men coaches and administrators. One reason is that as the salaries of coaches of women's teams increased with Title IX, male coaches began to displace female coaches. In 1972, the year Title IX was signed into law, over 90% of women's teams were coached by women. Now, half of women's college teams are coached by men, but only about 2% of men's teams are coached by women. The record is not much better at secondary schools. As of 1990, over 40% of girls' teams were coached by men, but only 2% of boys' teams are coached by women. Seventy-five percent of all high school teams were coached by men.

Women are also excluded from administrative positions within sports. Only 21 % of college women's athletic programs are headed by women, and women fill only 33% of all administrative jobs in women's programs.13 In high school, less than 20% of athletic directors are women, and less than 40% of directors of physical education are women. 14

(Empowering Women in Sports, The Empowering Women Series, No. 4; A Publication of the Feminist Majority Foundation, 1995)