By Sarah Boraas
In this generation, few of us remember how things were in 1972. We’ve heard of the Watergate Scandal and know how famous the Beatles were but aren’t truly informed on the struggle for equality that was taking place or appreciate the fight women went through.
An appreciation for equal rights has been demonstrated through the steady increase of female athletic participation but those same strides have failed to reach coaching, administrative and athletic leadership positions for women.
Having recently marked the 40th anniversary of Title IX, we should celebrate the progress that’s been made but also confront limitations that still exist.
Title IX was created in 1972 to protect people from discrimination based on gender in any activity receiving federal assistance including education, athletics and in the workplace.
While athletic opportunities have increased for women through Title IX, there are still areas where we’ve gone backward, Monica Severson, associate director of athletics and senior woman administrator, said.
At the collegiate level, there are significantly fewer women or minorities working as coaches, administrators or in athletic leadership positions compared to men.
In 1972, over 90 percent of women’s teams were coached by women. Now, half of women’s college teams are coached by men and only 2 percent of men’s teams are coached by women.
According to the article “Empowering Women in Sports” written by the Feminist Majority Foundation, women are less accepted into sports administrative positions with only 21 percent of women leading college women’s athletic programs and less than 33 percent working in administrative jobs.
“Here at Wartburg we have a female head athletic trainer, sports information director and several coaches so it doesn’t seem as much of an issue but there is still a definite need for growth,” Severson said. “Think about all the women that have been in athletics but aren’t choosing that as a career. How are we going to get more women into those areas?”
In collegiate athletics, U.S. News and World report stated that since 1972 there has been a 545 percent increase in female participation and a 979 percent increase in female participation in high school sports.
The same report stated that these strides have also been credited for causing a 10 percent increase in women working full-time and a 12 percent spike in women choosing traditionally male-dominated careers.
Wartburg currently has 236 female student athletes compared to 394 male athletes and continues to provide new opportunities for female student athletes with adding women’s lacrosse this year.
“Years ago, these opportunities were just not here. I remember when I was growing up my school didn’t get girls basketball until I was in seventh grade,” Severson said. “We’re truly reaping the benefits from a number of very dedicated individuals that pushed for big change.”
With the continuing growing interest in female athletics, that same passion and dedication for sports should be directly related to an interest in sports as a career.
Possibly lurking behind this lack of growth is the fact that fewer women are being offered leadership positions and lack confidence.
Ambitious, hard-working women in male-dominated careers are often seen as bossy, cold, or too tough, ultimately violating the rules of how society believes women are supposed to act.
In many ways, this stereotype is holding women back.
We can’t continue to level the playing field if we punish women for portraying leadership traits, especially in the realm of athletics, and should continue to promote confidence in women interested in male-dominated fields by encouraging them to pursue careers in athletics and accepting more women into those positions.
The strides that have taken place since the 70s are historical but there is still room for improvement and the opportunity for athletics to provide more for women.