By Amy Gonzales
When I wasn’t at the dance studio, you could find me playing volleyball, softball or swimming at the nearest pool. Sports have played an intricate role in my life. Whether it was hand eye coordination, learning the concept of teamwork, strategizing a play or accepting a hard loss, sports have taught me (and I’m sure many others) a thing or two about life. We often hear sports references in analogies and famous quotes, such as “teamwork makes the dream work” or “winners never quit and quitters never win.” I also remember growing up and watching the Olympics. I remember at one point, I was convinced I was going to be a figure skater like Michelle Kwan and that I was going to be sponsored by Campbell’s (their Chicken Noodle soup is bomb). The notable women athletes I remember most from my childhood were Serena and Venus Williams playing doubles in tennis, Mia Hamm kicking butt for the USA soccer team and Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings dominating the women’s volleyball circuit. These women truly helped shape me as an athlete.
45 Years Later: Women’s Fight For Equality
In my recent posts, I’ve commented on women in pretty much every field compared to men and the gender disparities. Women in sports is honestly (unfortunately) no different than the other topics I have previously mentioned. Women’s sport had minimal infrastructure or support until 1972. That same year, Congress passed Title IX. Title IX is a federal civil rights statute that bans any educational institution that receives federal money from discriminating on the basis of sex. Teen Vogue mentions that under this law, schools are supposed to treat men and women sports equally. According to The New York Times, it has had a profound impact through the years. A positive in all of this is that the amount of money and resources that go into girl’s and women’s sport is much higher than it was in 45 years ago. More girls and women are accessing sports than ever before, BUT we aren’t even close to “equality.” Here is a list of myths and facts from Women’s Sports Foundation on what Title IX is really about.
Support Your Homegirls: Sports Edition
It is said that fewer people know about, follow, let alone care about women’s sport. This notion is then used to justify lower resources and money for it (lame). Girl’s and collegiate women’s teams are undervalued (and paid less) in comparison to boy’s and men’s teams when they are in school. Back in 2017, the USA women’s hockey team boycotted (and won) playing in world competition in search of fair wages and equitable support (right on, ladies). The U.S. women’s soccer team has been one of the most beloved women’s sport team in this country. This team still has an ongoing campaign for equal pay as well. Tennis comes closer to bridging the gap and only because of a long, concerted effort started by players like Billie Jean King decades ago and continued by recent champions such as Venus Williams. Here are 5 distinguished women in sports that are making an impact within the sports community.
Michele Roberts is the executive director of the National Basketball Players Association. As the first woman to lead a major professional sports union in North America. The 62-year-old UC Berkeley Law graduate “now plays a pivotal role in representing the interests of some 350 NBA players and more than $3 billion in league salary distributions” (Forbes). Roberts serves as an inspiration for aspiring female sports executives everywhere. A panel of sports insiders ranked her first on this list of the 25 Most Powerful Women In Sports (#GOALS).
Lesa France Kennedy
Lesa France Kennedy is the CEO of International Speedway Corporation (ISC) and vice chairwoman of NASCAR (vroom! vroom!). Kennedy manages 13 of America’s biggest race tracks while also playing a key role in steering the multibillion-dollar racing conglomerate NASCAR as a member of its board of directors (again, #GOALS).
Serena Williams is the world’s highest-paid female athlete (get it giiiirl!). Williams has captured an Open-era record of 23 Grand Slam singles titles, including the 2017 Austrian Open while pregnant, and has won 86% of her career matches, bringing her career prize money to $84 million, which is nearly $50 million more than any other female tennis player (Wtafiles.com). She has more than a dozen endorsement partners, including Beats By Dre, Gatorade, JP Morgan Chase Bank and Nike. Williams also joined the board of SurveyMonkey recently and was one of the celebrity investors to purchase a stake in the UFC in 2016 (WSJ).
As a public policy major and softball player at the University of Chicago, Kim Ng wrote a thesis paper on Title IX , opening her eyes to the challenges and opportunities for women with careers in sports. At 49, she currently serves as senior vice president for baseball operations in Major League Baseball, the highest ranking woman in the sport (YES!). She’s mentioned frequently in news articles as potentially becoming baseball’s first female general manager (Chicago Tribune).
Jessica Mendoza is a former softball player and broadcaster for ESPN. She is now in her third season as an analyst for Sunday Night Baseball. She remains the ONLY woman currently analyzing baseball on television. She recently told The Washington Post that having more women broadcast games might broaden the appeal of the games. “Women that don’t watch sports, I think, would want to watch sports if they felt like they were being spoken to more” (Forbes). 35% of Major League Baseball fans are women (an underwhelming amount), but like Jessica said, if women see more of a representation with analysts, maybe more women will be eager to watch and become a fan of the sport.
It’s great to see that women are progressing within the sports community, however, there is STILL much needed work since it is proven that we are still underrepresented. From women like Kim Ng thinking she would go into a completely different field than sports to Jessica Mendoza commenting on how women will be more engaged if representation increased. The pay gap is not just within this industry, it is a constant reminder to women that we NEED to push harder, we NEED to do twice the work, why? Because empowered women are intimidating, yet a force to be reckoned with. Who will be the next female athlete to push Serena Williams out of the top spot? Who will make a difference in Nascar like Danica Patrick has? There are so many questions left unanswered for women in sports, we will just have to wait and see.
What are your thoughts on women in sports? Did you ever participate in sports growing up or watch the Olympics? Comment your thoughts below!