I was always picked last for teams during gym. Granted, that may be due to my extreme lack of hand-eye coordination, however, that’s not the case for many women of extreme athletic talent. Despite having made significant progress over the years, many women continue to be held behind in terms of their monetary compensation or recognition due to the fact that sports are still considered to be a boys’ club. The perception is that women can’t play sports because they’re seen as being too “soft” or “gentle” whereas men are rougher and more aggressive. However, in reality, that’s not the case at all. Women are just as capable of playing sports as men, and the only issue is that they aren’t given the same opportunities as their male counterparts.
This gender-discrimination starts early--before women even enter the professional field during college. The Title IX federal civil rights law was initially enacted in 1972 to address gender-discrimination in college sports, specifically in federally-funded institutes. (Almost all private colleges and universities are included because they receive federal funding for financial aid programs.) Despite the legislature, many women’s sports are still disregarded today. Currently, in our society, there is a $1 billion gap in the number of scholarships that men receive to play at higher institutes compared to women. In fact, during the pandemic, many athletic directors used COVID-19 related budget concerns to their advantage by cutting multiple women’s teams. The team cuts only further deepen the growing divide between the men and women sports which has existed for a long time.
Like in many other occupations, there’s a persistent gender wage gap in sports, too. In professional sports after college, male athletes are paid anywhere from 15% to 100% more than female players. One might think this applies to simply lesser-known athletes. Surely, world champions would never have such a discrepancy in their pay, right? Unfortunately, this is not the case. In 2019, the top paid male athlete, Lionel Messi, in the world received $97.8 million more than the top paid woman athlete, Serena Williams.
These statistics can be scary. The idea that as a woman or as someone of non-binary identity, we have to work two times harder to simply get halfway there is disturbing. Thankfully, though, we are beginning to see positive change. Yes, there is a lot of discrimination in the sports industry towards people who do not identify as men. Yet, the resistance is just as strong, if not stronger. Remember the teams that got cut due to the pandemic? Those college girls today are filing multiple lawsuits under the guidance of Champion Women, an organization that advocates for women in sports, and they’re winning! The wage gap we talked about? Today the gap is slowly closing as more people are showing interest in women’s sports. Take tennis for example: not too long ago tennis tournaments used to have different prize money values depending on the gender of the players. Today, this is no longer the case as women are making strides in numerous fields.
One of those fields includes the heart-racing, adrenaline-rushing sport of skateboarding. Personally, I tried to skateboard when I was younger but I ended up with far too many bruises; it certainly is not a sport for the clumsy. Luckily, the women who can skateboard are moving mountains for the rest of us. Skateboarding has been seen as a guys’ sport for so long that sometimes we forget the women and non-binary people that skateboard as well. When skateboarding first became popular, not many opportunities were presented to people who didn’t identify as men in the skateboarding industry. Over the past five years, though, we have seen incredible progress. In 2015, Leticia Bufoni became the first female skater to sign with Nike and only two years later she was joined by non-binary skater Leo Baker. In 2017, Samarria Brevard became the first Black woman to sign with Enoji. Organizations sprung up around the world to promote inclusivity in the skateboarding world. From Girl Skate India to GRLSWRL and Quell, there are so many people out there who are fighting and working hard every day so that young girls watching are never discouraged from going after what they want.
Sometimes it seems like womxn and non-binary folks will never get the right opportunities. It can be frustrating to deal with the discrimination, and it’s easy to think, what’s the point of even trying? But there is a point. This issue extends far beyond the sports realm and is about the fundamental principle of equity. No one’s identity, whether it be gender or otherwise, should ever prevent them from achieving their goals. We have to fight for our rights now, in order to secure a more equitable and inclusive future for the next generation of skateboarders, basketball players, and race-car drivers. So even though I'm definitely no Samarria, I might consider picking up my skateboard again.