great csr page banner

Why It's Hard To Be A Female Athlete

Lindsey Wasson / Stringer

When people think of sports, very few times, they think of highly successful female athletes. The market for professional female athletes is much smaller in the United States than for male athletes.

If you do not believe me, try to name as many professional sports teams as you can.

Now ask yourself, how many of those teams were women’s teams? Now, out of those teams, how many of those teams were not the National team in those sports?

There are definitely opportunities for women to advance their athletic careers both in the United States and internationally, but the number of teams available, the disparity in pay compared to men’s teams, and the lack of support from fans often keeps women from pursuing a professional career in their sport.

If we look at the development of one of the most well know women’s leagues in the country, the Women’s National Basketball Association, we can see that the struggle for gender equality in athletics is still highly prevalent. The WNBA started almost 51 years after the men’s league, and to this day, the women that represent the WNBA are paid just a fraction of the amount that their male counterparts are paid. The salary for a WNBA player caps off at $110,000 while the starting salary for an NBA player is around $520,000. This gap in earnings is just one aspect of being a female athlete that stirs up conflict.

So what is it like being a female athlete at the college level? Student athletes do not get paid to play, so how can there be inequality in athletics if there is not competition for finances?

The truth is that although there is no salary attached to the participation, there is still a stigma attached to being an athlete, especially a female athlete. Men’s sports draw in higher attendance numbers, especially at FCS and non-football schools. There is a negative stigma around women’s sports that they are not competitive enough, or that women cannot be as good of athletes as men. This negativity causes fans to choose men’s sports over women’s sports even if the women’s teams are more successful.

The truth is that there is still a stigma attached to being an athlete, especially a female athlete.

As a female student athlete at a school that has historically had more success in the women’s sports than men’s sports, it is frustrating knowing that our sports are not as supported due to a lack of knowledge on part of the fans. Because of the lack of attendance at female sporting events, men’s sports are marketed more frequently and with more enthusiasm, which only draws the line of separation further. The amount of work that student athletes are putting in is comparable across all sports, so why are the big time men’s sports getting all the credit?

The amount of work that student athletes are putting in is comparable across all sports, so why are the big time men’s sports getting all the credit?

The misconception that women are not as athletically gifted as men is insulting and in order to gain the recognition and respect of fans, women’s teams have to do 3 times as well as men’s teams to get the same kind of reaction.

For example, at my university, the women’s basketball team has won our conference championship the past 8 years in a row, they have gone to the NCAA tournament 6 times and they have had 3 undefeated seasons in recent years. The men’s team has won the conference championship 6 times since we joined the league, they have gone to the NCAA tournament 3 times, and they have not had near the amount of success as the women’s team, but they are still highly favored and considered the fan favorite.

This issue of working just as hard and producing better results for less recognition is not something that is uncommon in the life of a woman, especially in a male dominated field such as athletics, but it is time that we start giving female athletes what they deserve. It is time we make it known that women’s sports are just as good, just as exciting, just as competitive, and just as difficult as men’s sports.

It is time we make it known that women’s sports are just as good, just as exciting, just as competitive, and just as difficult as men’s sports.