Yesterday the United States Women’s Soccer Team defeated Japan 5-2 in the FIFA Women’s World Cup Final in Vancouver, claiming their third world title. The event was watched by soccer fans around the country, and was called a “ratings knockout” by news outlets with viewership of the tournament up 121% from the 2011 tournament. The numbers, however, cannot even come close to those drawn by men’s soccer in Brazil last summer, with the Women’s World Cup Final worldwide viewership coming in at under 20 million, while the men’s final between Germany and Argentina in Rio de Janeiro attracted a staggering 1 billion viewers worldwide. The U.S. viewership alone of the men’s final was 26.5 million, higher than the worldwide total of the women’s final.
These numbers are only one indication of the lack of attention and acknowledgment that still faces female athletics in the United States. Title IX, the landmark legislation passed in 1972 that banned sex discrimination in educational programs and activities that receive federal funding, was a huge win for women’s sports across the country, and the number of women and girls in sports teams has risen steadily since, but inequalities persist. There are still far fewer women in college sports, women’s teams receive less funding, women’s competitions receive less network television airtime across the board, and female athletes don’t always receive the recognition they deserve. Below is a map showing the percentage of schools in each state that have a large gender equity gap in high school athletics. A large gender equity gap refers to a gap between the percentage of spots on teams allocated to girls and the percentage of students who are girls that is 10 percentage points or higher. This means that there are more spots for boys on sports teams than for girls, and therefore fewer girls have the opportunity to pursue sports than boys. While some states have made great strides in reducing this gender gap, others still have great inequity that needs to be addressed to effectively celebrate and give potential American female athletes the opportunities they deserve to succeed.
Written by Christopher Ewell and Elise Mazur, 7/6/2015