Throughout 2023, women’s sports have made headlines. Viewership of women’s games, female athlete pay, and the diversity of sports in which female athletes participate are all higher than in previous decades, but gender gaps persist, and some gains may appear impressive until they are put into context.
High school girls are increasingly participating in traditionally male-dominated sports in Maryland.
Between 2014 and 2022, overall high school sports participation in Maryland fell for both girls and boys. However, more girls are participating in traditionally male-dominated sports such as wrestling, golf, ice hockey, and football. Despite their increasing numbers, girls participating in those four sports represented only 1.7% of all roster sports held by girls during the 2021-22 school year.
Women make up more than four out of every ten NCAA athletes.
After accounting for 30% of NCAA athletes in 1982, women’s representation has increased by more than 10%. Since at least 1995, women have never made up less than 43% of NCAA athletes.
Despite this, women’s leadership opportunities in sports are limited.
Since at least 1995, the proportion of female athletic directors has been steadily increasing. Many women who held positions of leadership at their schools when the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women was in charge of women’s sports were demoted when the NCAA took over in the early 1980s.
When women do hold more leadership positions, they are often filled by white women. Between 2012 and 2022, the percentage of athletic directors who are women of color increased by one percentage point, from 3% to 4%, while white women’s representation increased from 17% to 20%.
In the 2021-22 season, the average pay for women’s college basketball head coaches in major conferences and at other competitive schools was less than a fourth of that of their male counterparts.
Brenda Frese, the head coach of the University of Maryland women’s basketball team, received a salary of $1.4 million for the 2021-22 season. That is the sixth-highest salary among all women’s basketball coaches that year, and it is rising. Ten years ago, Tennessee’s Pat Summitt was the highest-paid women’s basketball coach, earning just under $2 million, or $2.4 million when adjusted for inflation. Geno Auriemma, the highest-paid women’s coach today, earned $2.9 million in the 2021-22 season.
At least 11 women’s coaches earned $1 million or more in total pay, with three earning more than $2 million. Women make up two of the three coaches.
While all of the top ten men’s basketball coaches are men, only five of the top ten women’s basketball coaches are women. In the 2021-22 season, the highest-paid NCAA women’s basketball coach was paid slightly more than 25% of what the highest-paid NCAA men’s basketball coach was paid.
The number of people watching the NCAA women’s basketball championship game is increasing.
The game between Louisiana State University and Iowa State in 2023 is the most-watched women’s college basketball game in history. Attention on the game and women’s players is growing, thanks to players’ ability to profit off themselves through name, image, and likeness deals and skyrocketing social media followings.
Angel Reese, a Randallstown native, started LSU’s NCAA tournament run with totals no other NBA, WNBA, or Division I basketball player has achieved in three games in the last 20 years: 76 points, 51 rebounds, 12 blocks, and seven steals.