As we celebrate Women’s History Month, we look to the evolution of women in sports as a reminder of how far we’ve come, and the landmarks we have to celebrate. While we applaud the 3.26 million girls who play on high school sports teams each year, we recognize there are still barriers to overcome in media coverage of women’s sports and opportunities to work as a professional in the field.
Thank you to our friends at Ohio University for sharing this infographic and reminding us of the amazing progress girls and women have made, and the next obstacles we aim to tackle!
The role of women in sports has changed dramatically since the days when young girls in high school could participate only in sports such as swimming, synchronized swimming, or the drill team. While these are all rigorous sports, the fact that at one time they were the only ones available to girls speaks volumes when compared to women and their relationships to sports today.
The evolution of women’s sports has meant more opportunities for women and girls to participate in all levels of athletics. Many are now professional athletes, like the World Cup winning women’s soccer team. Others are breaking barriers in male-dominated sports such as the National Football League, working as officials and in front offices. The Seattle Seahawks’ Chief Financial Officer is Karen Spencer, and their management staff includes two other women in a staff of just 16. While this percentage seems low, it’s the tip of the iceberg for women’s involvement in the NFL. In 2015, they made up 45 percent of the total viewership of NFL games.
They also make up a high percentage of media personnel for various networks. One of the most well-known is Erin Andrews, who has been a sports reporter for major networks for more than a decade. For any girl who wishes to take a cub reporting job to the big leagues, Andrews and Pam Oliver are just two of many role models to which they can look.
For decades, college and professional sports media were the domain of men. Today, more and more women are breaking into sports media. More women, too, are consuming sports media, beyond just the NFL. TV ratings for sports events are now being influenced by female viewers aged 18 to 49.
In 2015, the success of the United States women’s national soccer team (USWNST) in the Fédération Internationale de Football Association’s (FIFA) Women’s World Cup led to a rise in the popularity of both the sport itself and the women playing it. Nike released women’s team jerseys in men’s sizes, and EA Sports included women’s teams in its FIFA 16 video game release. The third World Cup victory for the USWNST also shed a spotlight on the fact that women’s sports still has some evolving to do. The disparity between salaries for the men’s teams and the women’s team became a hot topic in the months following the 2015 Women’s World Cup.
Yet this kind of inequality hasn’t stopped girls and women for participating in all aspects of sports. The greater the numbers of women in sports, the more positive changes will occur as the evolution continues, opening-up yet more opportunities for the girls now playing ball with the boys.