As women continue to break gender barriers, especially in athletics, you’d figure the media would start to incorporate more female representation, right? Wrong.
Although TV viewership of women’s sports has skyrocketed from 2020 onward, there is still a large gap in media coverage. As sports made their way back into the light after being paused due to COVID-19, the National Women’s Soccer League was the first US professional organization to return.
TV viewership leapt to a whopping 500%. On a similar scale, the 2020 season for the Women’s National Basketball Association led to a 68% increase in TV viewership. These examples compose just a small percentage out of many in which women’s sports have risen in popularity. However, if you look at the representation of female athletes in sports media, or the lack thereof, you’d justly assume hardly anyone is watching.
According to a three-decade long sports study, sports news coverage of female athletes has not progressed much since 1980. In 2019, women only held 5.4% of airtime on sports shows including ESPN SportsCenter. The study also uncovered that if the 2019 Women’s World Cup was taken out of the equation, the percentage would drop to 3.5% coverage.
These statistics depict a cultural value of men’s sports over women’s sports. On top of the lack of equality within media coverage, teams like the US Women’s National Soccer Team have been fighting an uphill battle when it comes to equal pay. Another demonstration of gender inequality was seen during March Madness when the NCAA provided men with an entire facility to prepare for the tournament whereas the women were given little to no equipment. This list of examples could go on forever.
What can be done about this? Surely more women in sports media positions would benefit the cause. However, the unfortunate truth is that the power lies within those who produce the coverage.
Although there is no determinate way of changing this inequality, women have the power to show up every day and continue to fight for representation through tenacity and performance. Taking a stand toward more representation can be accomplished through petitions and demands of the collective as a whole, but there is also a distinguished beauty in women demanding their representation through their presence within the sports they play.
Before I transferred to Temple, I was a collegiate athlete on the Women’s Soccer Team at McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. Although injury put an early halt to my career, I will never forget the grit and tenacity of my former teammates. The McDaniel Women’s Soccer Team is one of the most successful sports teams at McDaniel College. The team has certainly dealt with their fair share of adversity, but through diligence and determination, these women have established their presence at McDaniel and in NCAA Division 3 Women’s Soccer. They have become one of the teams with the most sports media coverage at McDaniel.
One of the greatest takeaways I took from my time on the McDaniel Women’s Soccer Team is that if you can’t make the change, be the change. Remain empowered, stay strong, and prove them wrong.