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Gender in Sports: A Case Study

The Local Issue

At Harker, girls’ sports receive less attention than boys’. There are fewer female sports coaches, and even fewer coaches of other genders. The gender binary is apparent in the separation of sports teams, and very few know if Harker accepts transgender athletes.

Clearly, though many at Harker are accepting towards people of all genders, the nature of Harker’s athletics program indicates an implicit acceptance of gender discrimination, the gender binary, and lack awareness of transgender students.

Please take this survey before beginning this page to share your experiences and opinions with gender in sports at your school!

Photo via Mark Kocina, the Harker School


 

 

Gender Equality in Sports Viewership

What’s the issue?

The Statistics

72.5% of students surveyed say boys’ sports teams garner more spectators. 0% say the girls do.

22% of students surveyed weren’t sure, and 5% said boys’ and girls’ team get the same amount of viewers.

 

Ask the Students

Female Harker student-athletes on how many people attend their games:

“At most two, unless it’s senior night … basically no one.” -Alayna, grade 12, varsity girls’ lacrosse player

“Maybe ten.” -Kendall, grade 12, former JV girls’ lacrosse player

 

Harker student-athletes on the difference in attention between boys’ and girls’ sports:

“There’s this … glorification of the male athlete. I don’t think that happens nearly as much in Harker as it does in other schools, but I definitely think that’s prevalent in society.” -Jordan, grade 12, varsity boys’ basketball and JV boys’ golf player

 

Why is it important?

In professional sports, female athletes receive far less airtime and media attention than males, demonstrating inequity between genders in sports.1 Many young girls quit sports because they have less resources and attention.2 Try to mitigate this inequality for your friends and classmates.

 

What can you do about it?

“It would be nice to get the school to think equally about women’s and men’s teams … we’re all important so it would be good to have everyone go to everything.” -Alayna, grade 12, varsity girls’ lacrosse player

Support your female and nonbinary friends and classmates at girls’ sports games and events. This spring, check out girls’ lacrosse, girls’ softball, track and field, and swimming.

Transgender Athletes

What’s the issue?

The Statistics

2.9% of students surveyed know what Harker’s policy on transgender athletes is.

76.5% of students do not know what the policy is, and 20.6% aren’t sure, suggesting that 97.1% of students surveyed are unaware of Harker’s policy on transgender athletes.

Ask the Students

“I have no idea.” – Jordan, grade 12, varsity boys’ basketball and JV boys’ golf player

“I do not know … I think they should decide, choose whatever team they want to be on – whatever team they feel more comfortable being on. It should be their choice.” – Luke, grade 8, boys’ basketball and baseball player

From the Athletic Director

Dan Molin, the Upper School Athletic Director, clarified that our school does not have a written policy but that the school follows the California state athletics guidelines, which allow athletes to play on the team of their choosing.

 

Why is it important?

All of our students should feel welcome playing sports, and students should be aware of our school’s policies.

 

What can you do about it?

Share your thoughts and encourage all of your classmates, including transgender and nonbinary students, that they’re welcome in Harker athletics. Everyone from every school, please share your thoughts about this project and gender in sports!

 

 

The Gender Binary in Sports

What’s the issue?

The gender binary is the division of gender into two distinct categories: masculine and feminine.3

58.1% of Harker athletes surveyed report that their sports coach is male. 32.3% report that their sports coach is female, and 9.7% report that they aren’t sure of the coach’s gender. 0% of Harker athletes surveyed report having a nonbinary coach.

Ask the Students

Harker athletes on the gender of their sports coaches:

“They are male … Male … Male” -Luke, grade 8, boys’ basketball and baseball player

 

Harker athletes are asked if they have ever had a female coach or a nonbinary coach:

“Nope. Not in Harker … I think that not many women strive to be a coach, actually.” – Luke, grade 8, boys’ basketball and baseball player

 

Why is it important?

At Harker, female coaches are underrepresented, and nonbinary coaches or other coaches not falling under the gender binary are extremely underrepresented.

In United States history, female coaches are paid less and female athletes receive fewer resources. Nonbinary coaches and athletes are almost never mentioned in these studies.4  In addition, when students do not see their genders represented by their coaches, they are more likely to quit sports.

 

What can you do about it?

Contact athletics coaches to request more diversity.

 

Do you notice any of the above issues at your school?

All of them
Most of them
Some of them
None of them

survey maker


 

The Project

Interviews

I reached out to four Harker student-athletes to ask questions about their thoughts and experiences with gender in Harker sports. I interviewed three grade 12 students and one grade 8 student. All were athletes or former athletes at Harker.

The interviews were intended not only to collect information, but also to encourage conversation within a community that is affected by gender in sports.

Survey

I circulated this survey via email and social media to Harker students, both athletes and non-athletes. The survey was intended not only to collect data, but to raise issues that many students have never before contemplated.

Website

I am in the process of circulating the upper portion of this website as a guide for Harker students. The website is intended to raise awareness about issues of gender in sports and advise Harker students about what they can do to remedy some of the problems.

Results

The circulation of the survey, as well as the interviews, have already started raising questions and action.

During the interview, I was able to start a conversation with a male Harker athlete about the names he used for professional sports organizations, as per the interview transcript below.

In addition, all of the athletes I interviewed asked for information on what Harker’s transgender athlete policy is, indicating that the interview raised curiosity in these athletes.

As I circulated the survey, I received several inquiries based on the content of the survey. For example, the following conversation occurred.

I have also received similar feedback and inquiries based upon the content of the webpage.


 

Sources

1. Good, Andrew. “When It Comes to Women in Sports, TV News Tunes out.” USCNews, U of Southern California, 5 June 2015, news.usc.edu/82382/when-it-comes-to-women-in-sports-tv-news-tunes-out/. Accessed 24 Mar. 2017.

2. Women’s Sports Foundation, editor. “Do You Know the Factors Influencing Girls’ Participation in Sports?” Factors Influencing Girls’ Participation in Sports: Women’s Sports Foundation, 9 Sept. 2016, www.womenssportsfoundation.org/support-us/do-you-know-the-factors-influencing-girls-participation-in-sports/. Accessed 24 Mar. 2017.

3. Love, Adam, and Kimberly Kelly. “Equity or Essentialism? U.S. Courts and the Legitimation of Girls’ Teams in High School Sport.” Gender and Society, vol. 25, no. 2, Apr. 2011, pp. 227-49. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/23044137. Accessed 24 Mar. 2017.

4. Senne, Joshua A. “Examination of Gender Equity and Female Participation in Sport.” The Sport Journal, vol. 1, no. 1, 26 Feb. 2016, pp. 1-8, thesportjournal.org/article/examination-of-gender-equity-and-female-participation-in-sport/. Accessed 24 Mar. 2017.

5. Whisenant, Warren A. “Sustaining Male Dominance in Interscholastic Athletics: A Case of Homologous Reproduction…or Not?” Sex Roles, vol. 58, nos. 11-12, 1 June 2008, pp. 768-75. ProQuest Research Library, doi:10.1007/s11199-008-9397-3. Accessed 24 Mar. 2017.

Share this project
COMMENTS: 8
  1. April 28, 2017 by Ella H

    Hey Molly! I’m super impressed with your project, it’s so well done!! And, a very interesting and important topic. Here at my school (JIS) we have huge sporting events called IASAS where a couple schools in Asia come to participate, and often times there is a different turn out between girls and boys sports. I think it’s so great you looked into it, and how interesting it is with everyones replies to your questions. I don’t know if you’ve seen it but Buzzfeed did a video kind of related to this topic, looking at Lingerie Football in women and how these women, who are actual amazing athletes in the sport just put up with the absurd costumes because they need the views and publicity to keep the sport going, otherwise nobody watches. Its actually really interesting here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJ167lrIDdc ; Anyways, I love your project. Good work!

    • April 28, 2017 by Molly W

      Thanks so much for your comment! I’m glad the topic resonated with you as well. Thanks so much for the video link!

  2. April 30, 2017 by Kristin L

    Hey Molly!! I’m so glad you did this since yeah, I think that at our school boys sports get much more attention than female sports. At our softball games the only times we get student spectators are for senior night, or else it’s just my parents and a few other parents. Last year for senior night, we had around 4 students show up which was pretty sad. However, I do think Harker does a better job than other schools regarding gender equality, but there’s still work to be done. Your dad is our assistant coach for the softball team, and he told us that we have to work better and be tougher than the baseball team if we want to get the recognition that we deserve. All in all, good job! It was very entertaining with lots of graphics and not too many big paragraphs. 🙂

    • May 01, 2017 by Molly W

      Hi Kristin! I didn’t know you did GOA too 🙂 Thanks so much for your comments and for your insights about the softball team!

  3. May 01, 2017 by Katarina Yepez

    This was an great project! Being a female athlete myself, I can say that female coaches exist in lesser quantities. For example, on our cross country team which is about 100 kids and coed, we have 4 male coaches and 1 female coach. In track season, where girls and boys are split up, we have 5 female coaches and 3 male coaches. In both sports the coaching is very different depending on the head coach. Female versus male coaching styles are different. Yo be honest though, I tend to do better with the male coaching style and training methods which are more intense, than that of the female coaches. However, I do know that many of my female peers prefer the female coaching style. So, I was wondering if when you surveyed people you considered their gender and asked them which style of coaching they preferred: male or female? Thanks and well done!

    • May 01, 2017 by Molly W.

      Thanks for your reply! I didn’t ask about preference of coach gender in my survey, but I did in the interviews. The athletes on the boys’ teams that I talked to preferred either male coaches or said no preference. All of the athletes that I interviewed from the girls’ teams told me they had no preference. I appreciate the perspective you provided from your track team 🙂

  4. May 01, 2017 by Christina Chen

    I love your website! It feel like gender in sport becomes a issue in High school which I never notice about. I like the way you sepearte the Gender in Sport topic into 3 different aspects, I also confused about what is actually Harker’s policy. Overall, thanks for sharing!

    • May 01, 2017 by Molly W.

      Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed it. Harker’s current policy is the California state policy: to allow athletes to play on the team of their choosing. However, I think this definitely should be publicized more.

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