Mike Perrin, a lawyer and former college football player, was chosen as the new interim athletic director for University of Texas over Chris Plonsky, a woman who has worked in the athletic department of the university for a quarter of a century. The announcement of this decision has many pointing to the lingering gender gaps in athletics at the collegiate level and beyond.
Decades after Title IX was passed in an attempt to address and prevent sex discrimination, statistics show there is a major disparity between male and female head coaches in college athletics. According to NCAA reporting, more than 80 percent of men still make up Division I collegiate head coaches, and of a total 313 Division I athletic directors, only 37 are women. As the New York Times reported:
“It’s not that women aren’t qualified, or that Texas has something specific against hiring [Plonsky] for its top job. It’s just that the sad numbers don’t lie.”
North Carolina State athletic director Debbie Yow, one of only three women in the country employed as full-time athletic directors, understands these hurdles and says “if you want to overcome that barrier, here’s a strategy: Wipe that question mark right out of their heads.”
This is easier said than done, as women at both the collegiate and professional level face massive inequalities. As Meg Linehan of Vice Sports reported, the salaries for professional athletes in the National Women’s Soccer League and the National Women’s Hockey League are below the poverty line. Similarly, more established women’s leagues like the WNBA are paid enormously less than their male counterparts.
The United States’ women’s soccer team made headlines this summer for both bringing home the FIFA World Cup trophy, but also for lingering disparities in pay coverage between the men’s and women’s teams. In this summer’s world cup tournament alone, the US world champions of the women’s World Cup earned collectively $15 million- a stark difference from the $576 million earned collectively by the US men’s team, who lost in the first round of the tournament last year.
At the same time, tiny victories are taking place for women in athletics. Jen Welter was hired as a coach for the Arizona Cardinals this summer, becoming the first woman to be an NFL coach. And just this season, Sarah Thomas was named the first female referee official for the NFL. San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon also made history as the first woman to coach an NBA team.
Media Resources: The New York Times 9/15/15; Feminist Campus Blog 6/25/12; Vice Sports 8/25/15; 8/12/15; Esquire 7/7/15; Bloomberg View 4/2/15; Jezebel 7/6/15; Feminist Newswire 7/29/15;