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Broadcasting the Underfunding of Women’s Athletics: The Collegiate Level

Throughout history, women have been considered inferior to a man’s ability and wisdom. Although efforts to eradicate this way of thinking were successful to an extent, these prejudices are still acted upon today. This same phenomenon can be observed in women’s athletic programs at universities across the United States today. In recent years, many have taken the initiative to combat this recurring issue. Even though we have entered the 21st century, women are still fighting for the right of equality along side men. Underfunding at even the biggest U.S. universities are also part of the problem. If these institutions are able to generate a steady influx of funding then why are we still in this constant battle? There is still much action needed to fully diminish this injustice. Although many are aware of the problem, many still don’t know how this happens, how to fix it, and why we need to uplift these women.

How does this happen?

It is easy for some to dismiss equality and refute even the existence of the problem within society. However, many accounts have surfaced regarding disparities made against women athletes. Teams like Florida State University are just one of the hundreds of programs who were undervalued, but still went on to earn national titles. FSU’s women’s soccer team and softball team was unequally funded as compared to their male counterparts even after winning their National Champion titles in 2018. This fact was cited in a recent article on the issue that states, “A new $1 million scoreboard looks down onto the baseball diamond. The FSU men’s baseball team has never won a national championship. But, the women’s soccer team has..”(WFSU | By Eleanor Clark, 2019).

Not only are women’s programs underfunded, but the financial aid received by both genders are significantly unmatched. In a recent study, it is shown just how different the two genders are treated at the collegiate level.

Table 1:

Credit Source: U.S. Department Of Education — Equity In Athletics Data Analysis

In Table 1 above, it can be seen that over $1.5 million dollars more in scholarships were awarded to male athletes at FSU than female athletes (WFSU | By Eleanor Clark, 2019). There is a huge gap in scholarship dollars between programs, but the number of athletes are almost identical. In fact there is only a gap of 72 people between the male and females of the athletic department. The male percentage of aid is 15% higher than that of the females. This doesn’t seem like a significant difference, but in terms of money, that can mean over $1.5 million dollars lost for these women. That is a loss of opportunities, reduction of debt, and the quality of their lives upon graduating. For only being short of 72 members, women are surely not being equally represented. This gap can also be said to occur due to the fact these universities are also not putting the effort or money in recruiting more female athletes to join their program. Most are concerned that if the school expects these athletes to keep winning the institution championship titles, then they should be treated with the same respect as their male counterparts.

FSU has also recently stated their plans to raise $100 million dollars for their athletic departments. After announcing this, they provided a breakdown of how this money will be disbursed. $60 million of this will go to a new and improved football facility, and only $5 million will go to their women’s athletics program (WFSU | By Eleanor Clark, 2019). Unfortunately, this practice is not protected under the act of Title IX. The law only states that federal funds have to be dispersed evenly throughout programs. New efforts should be established to protect this equality issue on all U.S. college campuses. These laws to protect our citizens from inequalities should be improved and re-established after concerns are raised as the world evolves. This recurring problem should be enough to solicit re-evaluation of these acts.

Efforts to Fix this Issue:

As stated earlier, this issue has been around longer than most might think or remember. In 1972, Title IX was passed by government officials to ensure “equal opportunity” in education without discrimination on the basis of sexual orientations (Tuesday, 2021). Schools are being thrown into the fire for not complying with this law that was passed so many years ago. Lawsuits have gone as far as the United States’ Supreme Court when universities fail to meet the standards of this act. FSU is already under investigation for not adhering to the regulations made by Title IX. Hamilton College, Ohio State, and Yale are just a few who are being investigated as well (Tuesday, 2021).

However, this practice is in need of extreme revision. FSU is a great example on showing the root of why these disparities are becoming more and more prevalent within our society. Title IX was made in the 70’s, and since then, there have been advances in the way we conduct business, as well as emerging loopholes around the law. Still today, women are in need of better protection after decades of progression of this issue.

The Social Impact:

Recently, social media platforms have been able to help aid this message in reaching a broader target audience. On the phone application called “TikTok”, a new dance trend has emerged after a video of the LSU Tiger Girls dancing to “Like A Boy” by Ciara went viral. The Tiger Girls were barred from competing in the nationals competition in 2021, due to insufficient funding for even a choreographer. This year (2022), they went on to win the National title and used their performance to make a point on how differently women are treated. This created a ripple effect of attention on the issue. Social media went crazy over this message and the weeks prior to their win millions of people were posting themselves dancing to this song all across the nation.

The LSU women blew up on TikTok and the trend lasted for weeks prior to the Tiger Girls’ win. Not only are people utilizing TikTok to bring light on the situation, but many tweets can also be found on the topic. Many questions and concerns are raised on why, in the 21st century, do we still have these problems as women? Many women’s sports are even outperforming their male campus teams, but their representation and resources are all under extreme risk. So why is that? The tweet below helps shed light on the advancing situation.

The Tiger Girls had no access to one of the main resources a dance team needs: a choreographer. They had the means and drive to bring recognition to the university, and they showed just that in the following year. What was the difference? One single opportunity had to be given for these women to represent their school. Now that they’ve won, who reaps the most benefits? The university itself will be the ones who hang that trophy and broadcast that win. The university caused these athletes the year prior to lose out on these opportunities with little to no repercussions of the setbacks.

Social media has done an amazing job about highlighting when injustices like these happen. The only draw back is that trends don’t last long enough to create a lasting impact. Once the storm blows over these collegiate programs are largely still back were they started. Thus, the conversation needs to last longer than these 60 second videos. There needs to be concrete steps taken to fully combat the problem. If no action is taken, then these injustices will continue to plague the women’s programs.

What are the benefits in investing in women?

Great things happen when we give equal opportunities to all. Sometimes, all people need to succeed is a small push in the right direction. That is what we must see happen for the future of women in sports. A key benefit from this for the programs who value their women athletes is that they stay in school longer and will enter the work force right after their education. It is a ripple effect that reaches beyond their years in the institution. With a society who faces high unemployment rates, this would directly ease that issue as well. A research done by Mckinsey Research states that, “And, if we were to empower women in our economies (…) we could add an astounding $12trn to the global economy by 2025” (Written by Beth A. Brooke-Marciniak).

If we take the inequality in college starts funding by genders issue and only look at it on the surface level we miss all the opportunities that come with uplifting these programs. This is an important issue on equality in America, and it should be treated as such. Women are unfortunately getting the short end of the deal, and yet, we have the power to eliminate this problem. With the new age of social media and many other social factors, we have the means to start of a very serious conversation with these universities, as investing in these women athletes is investing for the future for generations to come.

Sources Used:

Bachman, R., & Higgins, L. R. and L. (2021, March 22). NCAA withheld use of powerful ‘march madness’ brand from women’s basketball. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved March 1, 2022, from https://www.wsj.com/articles/march-madness-ncaa-tournament-womens-basketball-11616428776

Tuesday, V. J. |. (2021, November 10). How title IX helped create NCAA gender inequity. Global Sport Matters. Retrieved March 1, 2022, from https://globalsportmatters.com/opinion/2021/11/09/ncaa-gender-inequity-feature-not-bug-title-ix/

WFSU | By Eleanor Clark. (2019, January 7). Underfunded and unconquered: FSU Women’s athletics succeed despite unequal funding. WFSU News. Retrieved March 1, 2022, from https://news.wfsu.org/wfsu-local-news/2018-12-19/underfunded-and-unconquered-fsu-womens-athletics-succeed-despite-unequal-funding

Beth A. Brooke-Marciniak, D. M. (n.d.). Why we need to provide equal funding to women in sports? World Economic Forum. Retrieved March 1, 2022, from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/08/sustaining-the-olympic-legacy-women-in-sports-and-public-policy/

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