The Importance of Women & Girls in Sports

If you've looked at a sports review site or online sportsbook lately, then you've probably noticed one thing: Women's sports are in. Although women's sports have not always been considered popular or mainstream in the United States, female athletes and coaches have made enormous strides in the past ten years. In truth, though, this is only the latest phase in an ongoing journey to help make sure every girl and woman has access to the positive power of sports.

Up until the past few decades, sexist attitudes that prevented women and girls from participating in most sports were very prevalent. One of the biggest events that opened the door to change was World War II. Not only were women expected to step into traditional "men's roles" on the domestic front, but they also found new opportunities to participate in sports. This was especially true for women who were in college at the time: They fenced, shot, and played competitively.

Prior to the 1940s, women's athletic associations were informal and did not endorse competition. Even intercollegiate sports were not available to women until the basketball program at Smith College welcomed them in 1892. In the modern era, however, things began to change fast. Women realized the importance of making their own decisions about sports and reaping all of the benefits. They took a stand, inspired by the suffrage movement of the 1920s and 1930s.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the Civil Rights Movement swept across the United States. Women were among the many marginalized groups who began to speak up loudly for their rights. In this climate of change, many major intercollegiate athletic organizations amended their rules to make it possible for women to participate in programs. Supporters used this momentum to push for legislative change at the highest levels, which they finally got in the form of Title IX.

Title IX is a federal law that bans all forms of sex-based discrimination in education programs that receive federal funding. This includes all athletic programs attached to universities and to colleges that receive any federal funds. The vast majority of institutions of higher learning receive federal grants or scholarship money, so Title IX was effectively a blanket ban on preventing women from participating in college sports. This opened the door for programs at other levels.

Title IX was enacted in 1972. Since then, women's sports have seen tremendous growth. Famous athletes such as Venus and Serena Williams, Danica Patrick, Ronda Rousey, Hope Solo, and Lindsey Vonn have pushed the envelope in their respective sports. However, whether you're looking at sports review pages or an online sportsbook, it's hard to escape the conclusion that there are still issues for female fans, sports journals, and athletes to overcome.

Research has shown that media coverage of women's sports still lags behind men's and that female sports journalists face discrimination in the workplace. Still, there are many hopeful signs: Amazing performances by female athletes in recent Olympic events have captured the public's imagination. More and more female athletes have booked game-changing performances in recent years, winning fans and inspiring girls to excel. Although there is still much to be done, the outlook for women in sports in the U.S. at all levels is looking better than ever.

Famous Female Athletes

  • Famous Female Athletes at Biography.com: This article and multimedia presentation from the respected history site provides a look at the life stories and accomplishments of dozens of today's top female athletes.
  • Black Women in Sports at The History Channel: This article blazes a trail through the rarely told story of black women in sports. From Venus and Serena Williams to the very first African-American pioneers of women's sports, this is a great overview.
  • Official Serena Williams Homepage: This official site of the multi-time Grand Slam tennis winner includes information on her life story, tournament performances, and future appearances.
  • Venus Williams' Home on the Web: Venus Williams, high-performing sister to Serena, has her own online presence here. It includes an expansive biography as well as tennis tips, fitness, and much more.
  • Official Site of Danica Patrick: The official site of the best-known female driver in NASCAR includes news, a profile, photos, and videos of the driver in action.
  • Ronda Rousey on the Web: Ronda Rousey is one of the most accomplished women in the world of combat sports. She is the reigning UFC Women's Bantamweight Champion.

General Women's and Girls' Sports Pages

  • Women in Sport Commission of the Olympics: The Olympics has developed a comprehensive resource on the worldwide history of women in sports as well as a plan to improve women's opportunities and participation in the sporting world.
  • Influential Women Leading Big-Name Sports Brands: This article by Shape reveals the stories of leading female executives at athletic brands including ESPN, Nike, and many others.
  • Empowering Women and Girls Through Sports: This page from the U.S. Department of State provides information on how the nation's top diplomats support women in sports and develop programs to facilitate international cooperation through shared sports experiences.
  • A Brief History of Women's Sports in America: The story of women's sports in America is one that deserves to be told. This timeline by PBS is just one portion of coverage that includes audio, video, and a full-length documentary film.
  • MIAA Scholarship Contest for Girls in Sports: The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association has a number of resources to support young women in sports. One of these is an annual scholarship essay contest for high school girls.
  • The Center for Women and Girls in Sports: This page from Trinity Washington University includes not only information about the programs supported by the center but general facts and research showing the positive impact sports can have on girls and women.
  • Women in Athletics: History, Images, and Slide Show: This collection of vintage historical photos gives visitors a glimpse into the rich modern history of women in sports. It focuses the spotlight on women's collegiate athletic activities around the World War II era.
  • Women's Sports Information: This site by two amateur female athletes provides information and tips on sports including basketball, softball, volleyball, soccer, swimming, running, and a variety of outdoor activities.
  • Sportswoman of the Year Awards: This annual contest provides credit where credit is due for exceptional achievement by selected female athletes. Awards are available for teams and for individual athletes.
  • The Benefits of Women Playing Sports: U.S. News & World Report rounds up the latest data demonstrating that women of all skill levels can benefit from participating in sports.
  • The Year of the Woman in Sports: The Pulitzer Prize-winning Tampa Bay Times declares 2015 the "Year of the Woman in Sports," summarizing some of the great victories and milestones that have been achieved so far this year.
  • Female Executives Say Participation in Sports Accelerates Leadership Potential: This article by leading global consultancy firm Ernst & Young reveals important new data linking better leadership outcomes to female participation in sports.
  • Title IX and the Growth of Women's Athletics: This article provides further exploration of the topic of Title IX and women's athletics, serving as a capsule overview of the growth of women's sports since the landmark legislation.

Issues in Women's and Girls' Sports

  • Five Myths About Women's Sports: Persistent myths about women's sports in the U.S. have traditionally hindered their growth. This Washington Post article explores and explodes some of the most common ones.
  • For Women's Sports to Soar, Female Fans Must Show Support: Although women's sports are growing, fan support is still a crucial factor. This piece by NPR traces the importance of female fans connecting with female athletes.
  • Less Than Half of Women's Sports Teams Are Coached by Women: This piece by Fortune reveals a gender disparity in the coaching of women's teams and discusses possible implications for collegiate and professional athletes.
  • Coverage of Women's Sports Lags Behind Men's: Although women's sports have grown, TV coverage may have even declined since 1989. This piece from the University of Southern Carolina examines the data and the implications.
  • Athletics Information at the National Women's Law Center: This resource centralizes dozens of articles related to Title IX and how it applies to colleges, high schools, and other programs. It is especially valuable in cases where sex discrimination is suspected.
  • Norway's Women's Soccer Team Responds to Sexism: When a noted sports commentator made a sexist statement about women's sports, Norway's women's World Cup soccer team responded. Read about it here.
  • Media Coverage of Women's Sports Is Important: When it comes to the power of media, it's not just about what gets covered but how it gets covered. Sports managers have a role to play and best practices to follow when ensuring that female athletes get their due.
  • Women, Gender Equality, and Sport (PDF): This report by the United Nations describes the positive impact of sports participation on women and girls in a global context.
  • Attitudes About Women in Sports: How does sports coverage shape the perception of women in sports? Purdue University offers information on recent research about the marginalization of women's sports on television.
  • Recruiting, Retention, and Advancement of Women in Athletics: What factors support or undermine the attainment of athletic potential in women and girls? This well-researched piece looks at women's sports at the intersection of multiple problematic issues.
  • Status of Women in Intercollegiate Sport (PDF): For nearly 30 years, scholars have been gathering data and reporting on the progress of women in both athletic and sports administration roles. This report from 2014 is the most up-to-date version of that ambitious project.
  • Women, Sports, and Development (PDF): Are there economic reasons to support women in sports? The Peterson Institute for International Economics looks at the facts in this report, focusing on the transformative power of sports in developing nations.
  • Empowering Women in Sports: This study looks at the social and structural challenges to complete equality in athletics and sports programs..

Organizations and Associations for Women in Sports

  • Women's Sports Foundation: The Women's Sports Foundation was founded in 1974 by tennis star Billie Jean King, known for her participation in the "Battle of the Sexes" tennis match. It now helps to empower girls and women through sports activities nationwide.
  • National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators: This professional association serves as a safe space for women in collegiate athletic management to develop best practices and support one another.
  • Women in Sport Association of the UK: This organization provides news, advocacy, and research to help women access and achieve in the world of sports.
  • Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport: The Tucker Center of the University of Minnesota has a broad-based research agenda supporting women's athletic excellence and positive leadership outcomes for female athletes of all backgrounds.
  • Women in Sports and Events: This professional association serves as a think tank supporting the development and retention of female executive talent in the sporting world.
  • Bay Area Women's Sports Initiative: This membership organization in California's Bay Area welcomes female athletes and coaches. It supports events and programs throughout the state and around the nation.
  • Greater Cincinnati Northern Kentucky Women's Sports Association: This organization sponsors an annual awards banquet that recognizes achievement in young, up-and-coming female athletes.
  • LA84: Serving Youth Through Sport: Endowed through leftover funds from the Olympic Summer Games in 1984, LA84 now provides regional and nationwide programming to support young athletes, including both women and men.
  • NCAA Committee on Women's Athletics: The NCAA's Committee on Women's Athletics supports the development of women's participation in sports across all sports categories. The page provides background on its mission and archives its meeting reports and agendas.

Products and Services for Women in Sports

  • Women's Health and Sports: Dr. Stephen M. Pribut provides general information and tips on how women athletes can maximize their training and performance while minimizing the risk of the most common sports injuries.
  • Women's Health Magazine Best Exercise Equipment for Women: Athletic training happens at home as well as on the gym and in the field. In this article, Women's Health provides tips on some of the best equipment to maintain fitness.

Publishing and Broadcast Media for Women in Sports

  • Association for Women in Sports Media: This professional organization is a collaboration of women in television, journalism, and a variety of other fields. Membership dues support an annual convention, internships, scholarship opportunities, and more.
  • Women's Sports Journal: The Women's Sports Journal is a comprehensive online magazine covering everything related to women's sports in Ireland.
  • ESPNW: ESPNW is the largest U.S. media outlet dedicated to women's sports.