Voices of Youth: Investigating gender inequalities in sports

This article is part of Concentrate's Voices of Youth series, which features content created by Washtenaw County youth in partnership with Concentrate staff mentors, as well as feature stories by adult writers that examine issues of importance to local youth. In this installment, student writer Nia Stewart examines the issue of pay inequality in women's sports.

Gender inequality in sports is still an issue in modern society. Despite the incredible efforts and achievements of female athletes, they often receive less recognition and compensation than male athletes. This disparity can be seen in everything from media coverage to endorsement deals to prize money. 

As a female athlete, I know that gender inequality is a reality in many sports. I know this because I have been playing many sports throughout my whole life. Currently, I am running track and playing basketball. Throughout my 14 years of playing sports I've heard about and have personally seen many people encountering discrimination in sports. 

I’m here today to inform others on gender inequality in women’s sports. It is important for society to recognize the value and accomplishments of women in sports, and work towards creating a more equal world. Only then can we truly appreciate and celebrate the talent and dedication of all athletes, regardless of gender. 

Unequal rights in women’s basketball

In one example of this inequity, Ohio-based lawyer Roberta A. Kaplan and her colleagues noticed that the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) was making much less than they should have for the television rights to women's basketball tournaments.

A recent analysis showed that broadcast rights to the women's basketball tournament would be worth $85 million per year by 2025. The NCAA's contract, which hasn't been renegotiated in a decade, now unfortunately values the television rights at only $6 million per year – which is obviously not anywhere near close to the prediction. 

I believe women should get much more credit for their hard work, and women not getting nearly as much money as men is not right. If women's sports were equally promoted it would be easier for more women to get better sponsorships and great contracts. 

Motor City Track Club study

This past June, I conducted a study of what people in the Motor City Track Club, of which I am a member, thought about the inequalities in women's sports. I asked my track and field teammates three questions on this topic. I want to share those questions and answers with you all:

1. Do you believe there is a pay gap between men and women in sports?

Results: 90% of people believed that there was a pay gap between men and women in sports. 

2. Are you informed about gender inequalities in sports?

Results: 60% of my teammates thought they weren’t educated enough on the topic.

Lastly, I asked my teammates how they believe that we, as a society, can help decrease the pay gap between genders in sports. 40% believed that we could do a better job with promoting women's sports and boosting media coverage. 30% said we should improve the minimum wage for women in sports. Another 30% believe we could create more policies for women's sports.

“Before I took my teammate Nia’s survey I did not know that the pay gap between men and women was so large," said my 14-year-old teammate Ari Williams.

“After reading my teammate Nia Stewart’s article, I realized that women’s sports coverage impacts many of their opportunities to make money," said my 13-year-old teammate, Michael Johnson.

3 steps you could add to your daily routine to help revolutionize women's sports:
  1. Raise your voice! Speaking out on social media platforms and in person is the route to a better world. Informing friends, family, and co-workers on what's happening not only draws people's attention, but it can also persuade people to change their views.
  2. Support women's sports! Volunteering and starting a fundraiser can be a great way to donate money to women's sports organizations. The money can help decrease the 40% gap between women’s and men’s sports funding. You can also spread awareness and show your support by attending peaceful marches and protests.   
  3. Be a role model! Being a role model helps the next generation to grow up with fewer stereotypes than the previous generation. You can become a great role model by staying persistent in your sport, encouraging schools to give girls equal access to sports, and by showing others that women can be just as knowledgeable.
Nia Stewart is a rising 9th grader at Renaissance High School.

Photo courtesy of Nia Stewart.

Concentrate staffer Jaishree Drepaul served as Nia's mentor on this project.

To learn more about Concentrate's Voices of Youth project and read other installments in the series, click 
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