Being a Female Athlete: What That Means in a Men-Dominated World

By Krush Sood

Female athletes are taking the world by storm with figureheads like Serena Williams, Alex Morgan, and Sarah Fuller, proving that they belong in sports just as much as men. There are obvious challenges associated with being an athlete. The challenges as a female tend to be far greater than a male in everything from health issues to the pay gap. The issues women face in their day-to-day life are magnified in the sports industry. 

Paid Less

Women get paid 82 cents to each dollar a man makes, according to the Center for American Progress, and there is no difference in the sports industry. Just basketball alone, the average salary for a WNBA player is $130,000, while in the NBA the average salary is 7.7 million. This is an example that goes beyond a pay gap. This giant difference between salaries boils down to my next point. Teams aren’t required to pay women more because the WNBA does not receive as much coverage as the NBA.

Coverage

Women in sports don’t receive the same kind of coverage that men receive. Women make up 40% of the participants in sports, but only make-up 4% of the coverage, according to the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport. This includes everything from inches in columns to airtime. This statistic causes a cascading effect on other factors in the sports industry because if women are not receiving coverage, they lose possible sponsors, a fanbase, and even pay. When women do receive airtime, they are more likely to be portrayed in sexually provocative poses. 

Objectification

Unlike male athletes, women do not have the luxury of being portrayed as performance athletes. Usually, their sex appeal or beauty tends to take precedent over their athletic achievements. Most publications that give women coverage tend to focus on a more “women first, athlete second” attitude. Skier Lindsey Vonn was being criticized for posing more provocatively on the cover of Sports Illustrated. What makes it worse is the headline was “America’s Best Women Skier,” but the cover picture had nothing to do with her athletic ability. Many women also feel pressured to conform to what publications want them to do because of the minimal coverage they receive. 

Health Risks

As athletes, women face greater health risks. When female athletes start training in their developmental years, they can face stunted growth, which for some can cause delayed puberty. This can lead to muscle and organ difficulties as they mature, especially if they aren’t receiving the nutritional requirements, according to the National Eating Disorder Association. Another issue women face is that they tend to fall into a pattern of disordered eating, which is more common in females than males. Over one-third of female athletes show attitudes and symptoms of anorexia nervosa. But the athletes that do choose to continue with their sport must maintain a healthy lifestyle because they are at more risk than men. 

Overall the difference between male and female athletes boils down to more than just the sport and popularity. Female athletes face many more challenges than men do, but still, find a way to be badass boss women. And sports fans should take more time to support females in the sports industry to help minimize these disparities that still exist.


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