“Tell Congress to Pass the High School Athletics Accountability Act….Today is National Women and Girls in Sports Day — the perfect time to go to bat to achieve equity for girls and women in sports!” read the headlines in the American Association of University Women’s (AAUW) e-mail I received earlier. And the organization has a reason for support action on this topic: “Title IX, the law that prohibits sex discrimination in educational programs which receive federal funding assistance, has made great strides in breaking through barriers for female athletes. But today, 40 years later, there is still work to be done — particularly at the high school level. High schools girls continue to face discrimination in scheduling, equipment, facilities and overall participation opportunities.”
It seems natural to continue to share information about women and girls in sports today. Yesterday I read a post by Justine Siegal that included the headline at sports.yahoo.com that 7-year-old Anna Kimball kicked off baseball team just because she’s a girl. Justine says that the child has “the legal right (and the moral one) to play baseball” and that her organization, Baseball for All, will fight decisions like this. Read my previous post “Baseball for All: Justine Siegal’s Mission” for more information about Justine who last year and for the first time in the major leagues, pitched batting practice for the Cleveland Indians.
Benefits of Playing Sports
Research in the last ten years has shown that girls who participated in sports as children reap benefits as adults. In “As Girls Become Women, Sports Pay Dividends” (The New York Times, 2/15/10) Tara Parker-Pope writes that “A large body of research shows that sports are associated with all sorts of benefits, like lower teenage pregnancy rates, better grades and higher self-esteem. But until now, no one has determined whether those improvements are a direct result of athletic participation.”
Tara-Pope presents the results from two studies by economists that provide “the strongest evidence yet that team sports can result in lifelong improvements to educational, work and health prospects.”
Betsey Stevenson, an economist at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, found that “increasing girls’ sports participation had a direct effect on women’s education and employment. She found that the changes set in motion by Title IX explained about 20 percent of the increase in women’s education and about 40 percent of the rise in employment for 25-to-34-year-old women.”
Robert Kaestner, an economics professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, focused on the long term health of women and “compared rates of obesity and physical activity of women who had been in high school in the 1970s — as Title IX was taking effect — with similar women from earlier years.” The results weren’t startling but significant since “He found that the increase in girls’ athletic participation caused by Title IX was associated with a 7 percent lower risk of obesity 20 to 25 years later, when women were in their late 30s and early 40s.”
Sports Management and Ownership
“Winning is an attitude, an attitude in all you do,” said Rita Benson LeBlanc, Owner/EVP, of the New Orleans Saints during a telephone interview I conducted with her for the November 2006 newsletter of what is now branded as The Little Pink Book for professional women. Women are not just earning top roles in sports management they are investing in owning major league sports teams.
LeBlanc was eight when her grandfather Tom Benson assumed ownership of the Saints. As owner and EVP of the New Orleans Saints football team, LeBlanc’s responsibilities for marketing and business operations include creating the revenue to pay the multimillion-dollar contracts for the 99 players on the team along with then organizing a major effort to restore the city of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. When I asked LeBlanc then where she saw herself in ten years, she said, “In 10 years, I’m owning and operating a Super Bowl championship team. Male or female in the NFL, we all want that championship ring. I then asked her if she wanted to be Commissioner of Major League Football and she replied, “When you run a team, you don’t think about running them all. The owners are the bosses; the commissioner keeps everyone on the same page. I prefer owner to commissioner.”
Sheila Johnson is a billionaire who together with her former husband Robert Johnson started Black Entertainment Television (BET). Johnson is very active in business and philanthropic work—plus sports teams where she has taken on leadership roles and invested in three professional sports. According the article “Sheila Johnson Slams BET” (The Daily Beast, April 29, 2010), “She is president and managing partner of the Washington Mystics of the Women’s National Basketball League, and also owns substantial stakes in the NBA’s Washington Wizards and the National Hockey League’s Washington Capitals. The owner of several hotels and a PGA golf course, she is building a luxury spa and convention center on a 347-acre tract in horse country in Middleburg, Virginia, where she also has a farm and indulges her love of all things equestrian.”
Happy National Women and Girls in Sports Day! Women and girls in sports seem to be here to stay!