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The Evolution of Women in Sports

How the efforts of trailblazing women continue to level the field in the sports industry.


Female athletes across various sports
Female athletes paving the way for women in sports. Courtesy of Women's Sports Foundation.

Choosing a career in a male-dominated field as a woman is a challenging yet courageous decision. In the world of professional athletics, the disparity between genders has long been evident in areas like compensation, media coverage, and even fans and supporters. However, historical and present efforts from women in sports have significantly increased gender equality in the industry. 


In 1972, thanks to Title IX, sex-based discrimination was prohibited in any school that receives money from the federal government. Two years later, Pat Summitt became the head coach of the University of Tennessee’s women’s basketball team, leading the Lady Vols to eight NCAA championship wins. Another big milestone came in 2020, when the women of the WNBA reached an agreement with the league for adequate pay and better benefits. Endeavors like these haven’t gone unnoticed, and have catalyzed the evolution of women’s roles in sports.


Pat Summitt holds a basketball
Pat Summitt, legendary Lady Vols coach. Courtesy of Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame.

Today, women continue to use their undeniable talents to make great strides in the sports industry. More than 10 women own or have owned a team in one of the four major professional leagues, when just years ago they wouldn’t have been considered for ownership. Now when you turn on the TV, you see women covering pro games, representing top draft picks, being the faces of big-name brands, and more.


The increasing popularity of collegiate women's sports has contributed to the overall growth of women in sports. In 2023, the NCAA D1 women’s basketball tournament drew a record-breaking audience of nearly 10 million fans for the final matchup between LSU and Iowa—a 103% increase from the 2022 tournament. Wisconsin’s battle against Minnesota made history as the first NCAA volleyball match aired on Fox, attracting 1.66 million viewers. Furthermore, six women are ranked in NIL’s top 100, deeming them some of the top-earning college athletes. One of them is LSU gymnast Olivia Dunne, ranked 3rd with $3.4 million in value as of January 17, 2023. 

 

When Last-Tear Poa, a national champion with LSU women’s basketball, was asked what it was like to be part of the evolution of women in sports, she responded, “It feels empowering; I’m glad I can be a stepping stone for younger girls that may feel like the odds aren’t in their favor.” She went on to mention that having people in her corner helped her recognize her own power and the power all women hold as a whole. 

 

Last-Tear Poa dribbles the ball
Last-Tear Poa, LSU women's basketball guard. Courtesy of The Advocate.

The young ladies of today who dream of working in sports have witnessed women’s amazing impacts on the industry. Seeing women thrive in a male-dominated field gives the new generation not only female role models to look up to, but also the motivation to be strong-minded individuals who believe in themselves. As women continue to excel in sports-related careers, it's exciting to think about the future. Who knows—maybe one day, you’ll own your favorite team and inspire women in sports to pursue their dreams.

 

Edited by Ella Chang

Social media content created by Daryl Batt

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