Where are all of the Professional Female Athletes

by Danielle H.

When I was a child, I dreamt about being the next Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant. They were amazing athletes. I remember my dad and I watching their games and talking about what an amazing life they must have. As a child, I never imagined that my gender would ever put a damper on that dream. As I got older, I started wondering why there was a lack of female athletes on television. It was not until my friend’s parents’ denied her the opportunity to play sports in high school that I realized what was going on in the world around me. My friend’s parents’ told her she needed to focus on her grades, and that sports got females nowhere in life. This made me think about how the only female professional athlete that I knew about was Hailey Wickenheiser, and that was only because she was promoted in New Brunswick schools when I was younger.

It occurred to me that the sporting world is dominated by males. In fact, in a recent article I read, they stated that “sport is a male-dominated institution that promotes traditional gender roles and advances male hegemony” (Hannon, Soohoo, Reel, & Ratliffe, 2009). As a society, we allow sports to be centred around males. For example, sports such as baseball and softball segregate men and women, as it is viewed as more appropriate for males to play baseball and females to play softball. Certain sports, like hockey, even have rules that state men are allow to play with contact and females are not.

In another recent article I read, it discussed the Grand Slam tournament in tennis. The Grand Slam Tournament has an equal amount of male and female athletes competing. Everyone participates in the tournament, and every athlete is paid by the same employer. However, the male athletes are still paid more than the females (Kahn, 1991).

As I mentioned before, my friend was not allowed to play sports in high school as her parents told her that her grades were more important. If I had to guess, she is definitely not the only girl who has been told that. I don’t understand how that is fair. We have multiple sporting leagues for males, and not as many for females. As a male athlete, you do not necessarily have to play professionally in order to make money. Males have opportunities to play below the professional level, and still get paid. What I am getting at is that females have a considerably smaller chance to make it to the professional level, because there are limited spots for female athletes. Also, it is known that female athletes generally make less money. With the female sport world being what it is, it is understandable why girls do not pursue sports in the same way as boys do.

References:

Hannon, J., Soohoo, S., Reel, J., & Ratliffe, T. (2009). Gender stereotyping and the influence of race in sport among adolescents. Research quarterly for exercise and sport, 80(3), 676-684.

Kahn, L. M. (1991). Discrimination in professional sports: A survey of the literature. ILR Review, 44(3), 395-418.

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