What’s a female athlete got to do to get some attention?

By Sydney Adams, Columnist

Male athletes, teams and sports get more media coverage, more sponsorships, more publicity. ESPN devotes less than 3 percent of air time to female sports. Fair? When there are very talented and successful female athletes and teams?

U.S. Women’s National Soccer team’s Ali Krieger (#11) and
Rachel Buehler (#19) battle Canada
Photo by Brent Flanders, Creative Commons license

In fact, some women’s teams are more successful than their male counterparts. The U.S. Women’s National Soccer team is far more accomplished than the men. The women have won three World Cup titles, four Olympic gold medals and they have medaled in every single World Cup and Olympic tournament from 1991 to 2015. The team has fluctuated from No. 1 to No. 2. Abby Wambach scored what has since been voted the greatest goal in U.S. soccer history, men’s or women’s.

The men’s team? Despite failing to make this year’s World Cup, which is just the latest mark of futility for the men, the U.S. men’s team gets more media coverage and TV time, better pay, better benefits and better playing conditions (the fields and arenas).

During the 2015 Women’s World Cup, more than 750 million viewers tuned in, setting a record for viewership. What can justify women’s sports only receiving 3 percent of air time on television? People will never know how successful women’s teams are if those athletes are ignored in media coverage.

And TV exposure is just one dimension of the gender gap in athletics. Gender equality in sports is not about being considered the same as males, but about being regarded with equal value. It isn’t about who is “better,” athletically or any other way.

Fixing the gender gap in sports is about creating the same caliber or level of opportunity, not just achieving Title IX mathematical equality – the number of teams and sports offered by a college, for example. No, female athletes should enjoy the same opportunities for media coverage, sponsorships, treatment and pay, and little girls should be able to dream of such opportunity in the same ways that little boys have been able to for decades.

This could start with raising awareness of women’s achievements by offering more air time for women on television. If a women’s team is successful and doing better than a men’s team, offer more coverage for the women’s team. It’s not much, but it’s a start.

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