Fiscal iniquities define gender divide

Simple mix-information clouds judgement, perception in sports

By Robert Clinton, Sports Editor

In 1972, Title IX of the Education Amendment required all schools receiving federal money to provide the same opportunities for women as they do men by 1978. Since, continued speculation has been raised about the value of women’s athletics.

Most questions of value have come from men.

Betsy Stephens of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania compiled data to see what adding sports did to girls’ lives and how it changed things for them.

Using information gathered from many sources including location, climate, school population and personal differences among athletes, as well as other methods, the benefits began to take form.

The improvement in women’s lives after the advent of Title IX measured a 20 percent rise in women’s education and a 40 percent rise in employment for women age 25-34.

It is not that women who do well in life play sports, it is that women who play sports tend to do better over the course of their lives, Stephens said in her report.

The increase in the overall health of women in the years following the ruling is enough to justify a place in the fabric of society for women’s athletic programs.

The benefits are measured both long term and immediate.

Since Title IX, women have seen decreases in levels of obesity into their adult years. Studies show that women who participate in athletics saw a 7 percent drop in obesity 20-25 years later into their late 30s and early 40s.

A 7 percent swing is slight, but still more than any long run program has produced.

Also, female athletes run a reduced risk of chronic illnesses later in life like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, also colon and breast cancers.

Young women who play sports are also more likely to graduate from high school, have better grades and score higher on standardized tests.

The numbers hold firm across all levels of economic backgrounds.

The dissenters argue that by its very existence Title IX takes away from boy’s and men’s sports solely by increasing opportunities for women in athletics.

In fact, men’s sports have continued to expand as opportunities for their female counterparts have also expanded, bringing benefits to all students.

One of the most common myths about Title IX or women’s sports in general is the idea that in order to make room for female athletes men’s programs have to be cut.

The ruling does not promote the cutting of any programs but does give athletic directors an opportunity to restructure programs, as long as the changes are not discriminatory.

Between 1988 and 2011, National Collegiate Athletic Association members dropped 2,748 men’s athletic teams. Most of the teams dropped were reflections of the athletic climate in America as interest in men’s gymnastics and wrestling waned.

Over the same period, 3,727 soccer, baseball and lacrosse teams were added for an expansion of nearly 1,000 men’s athletic teams in the Title IX era.

Women made enormous advances over the same period of time, but only because the depth of the hole they were trying to escape was centuries in the making.

The law does not require athletic departments to spend equal amounts of money on men and women’s programs. It only requires that there is not a large discrepancy in overall funding.

In Division I colleges, the gap is cavernous as women only receive roughly 28 percent of the money spent on athletics.

For example, the average amount spent to sustain a Division I football team is more than $12 million. In contrast, total spending for the entirety of women’s sports at an equal program is just around $8 million.

Nationwide, high school girls have 1.3 million fewer chances to play sports than do boys. Aside from lack of opportunity, when the chance does arise, girls often receive inferior treatment regarding facilities, equipment, scheduling and publicity.

On the highest levels of collegiate sports, women make up 42 percent of the athletic scholarships, 31 percent of recruiting dollars and a measly 28 percent of the total money spent on athletics.

Still, the data all points to girls and women participating in sports on any level being a benefit to all.

Whether it is to lessen the burden on our medical infrastructure or for increasing performance in the classroom, sports can bridge gaps and unite communities while equating historic inequities along the way.

Robert Clinton is the sports editor of The Advocate. Contact him at [email protected].