The Aspen Institute reports that in youth sports girls’ participation rates are 6% lower than for boys. Not surprisingly, the gap grows in adulthood. 35% of men say they play sports, while only 16% of women do.
Passage of Title IX in 1972 broke new ground for women in terms of sports participation. Under the amendment, schools of all levels (elementary, secondary, collegiate) were prohibited from sex discrimination if they received federal funds. This applies to opportunities to play, athletic scholarships, and benefits and services (facilities, coaching).
But according to analysis by the National Women’s Law Center, schools are still providing 1.3 million fewer chances for girls to play sports in high schools.
In NYC, a civil rights complaint in regards to Title IX prompted an investigation which found schools short-changing girls in regards to sports participation opportunities. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights ruled that there needed to be 3,862 more opportunities for female students if NYC schools were to be complaint with Title IX.
Female athletes of all levels recently shared what sports meant to them in conjunction with Girls Sports Month, a campaign created by USA Today and the Women’s Sports Foundation. Athletes like Danica Patrick, Carli Lloyd, and Holly Holm shared stories about how sports helped them overcome adversity, taught them discipline, and added to their sense of self-worth.
The Women’s Sports Foundation reports the following about girls’ participation in sports:
- High school girls who play sports are less likely to be involved in an unintended pregnancy; more likely to get better grades in school and more likely to graduate than girls who do not play sports.
- As little as four hours of exercise a week may reduce a teenage girl’s risk of breast cancer by up to 60%.
- Forty percent of women over the age of 50 suffers from osteoporosis (brittle bones).
- Girls and women who play sports have higher levels of confidence and self-esteem and lower levels of depression.
- Girls and women who play sports have a more positive body image and experience higher states of psychological well-being than girls and women who do not play sports.
- Sport is where boys have traditionally learned about teamwork, goal-setting, the pursuit of excellence in performance and other achievement-oriented behaviors—critical skills necessary for success in the workplace.
The WSF also reports that 80% of female executives at Fortune 500 companies identified themselves as former “tomboys” – having played sports.
Benefits of sports participation like a lifelong love of physical activity and a well-developed sense of how to play fair and to work on a team have no price tag. They contribute to a healthy and well-balanced life and can contribute to success in the workplace and in inter-personal relationships. We owe it to girls to make sure they have a fair chance to play.