Beyond the sidelines: achieving gender equality in sports

Women’s sports is experiencing a renaissance after long being overshadowed by their male counterparts. Trailblazers like Caitlin Clark and the undefeated University of South Carolina’s women’s basketball team are changing the game.

For the first time in history, the women’s basketball NCAA tournament surpassed the men’s tournament in viewership numbers. This year’s women’s tournament drew in a whopping 18.9 million viewers, while the men’s tournament brought in 14.8 million viewers. 

Despite these strides, men’s sports still account for a staggering 95% of media coverage, especially with popular male-dominated leagues such as the NFL, NBA and MLB. Given this, the sports industry still has a long way to go before gender equality is achieved.

Kaufmann has interviewed various celebrities throughout her career, including Pelé, a famous Brazilian soccer player, in 2014. (Photo courtesy of Michelle Kaufmann)

“Female athletes are taken more seriously than before and do get more media coverage than before, but it still seems it takes somebody phenomenal like Caitlin Clark or attractive such as the Cavinder twins to get mainstream media coverage,” said Michelle Kaufmann, a sports writer for the Miami Herald. “But I do think this year’s NCAA women’s basketball tournament made people realize that the women’s game can be just as exciting, that it has big personalities and fierce rivalries and spicy storylines.”

Kaufmann believes that the next step in promoting gender equality within the sports industry is to bring more women in as play-by-play announcers on television or radio and columnists writing sports opinions. She also thinks that women’s sports will be taken more seriously if both genders are covering and commentating on them. 

In addition to opening more doors for women, the sports industry should also be diversifying its staff. Just as it wants to inspire the next generation of athletes, it should be doing the same for the people behind the scenes.

Miller found a new world on the other side of the sidelines when she started creating news pieces for Caplin News. (Photo courtesy of Kimora Miller)

“Initiatives like gender diversity programs and mentorship opportunities can help women advance in their careers and break into leadership roles,” said Genesha Rhymer, an FIU athletics marketing intern. “Promoting equal pay and challenging stereotypes are essential steps in creating a more equitable sports industry.”

Kimora Miller, an FIU dazzler, also emphasized the importance of representation and promoting gender equality in the sports industry. 

“There have been times where my female colleagues and I will propose an idea and it will just go in one ear and out the other,” said Miller. “But at the end of the day, I believe it only makes us more passionate about what we do because if there is one thing about us, we will do whatever it takes to make ourselves be seen and heard.”

Kaufmann said there is a double standard faced by women in sports, who are often held to higher standards and face increased scrutiny. This disparity forces women to work harder to prove themselves, perpetuating an unequal playing field within the industry.

Miller encourages women aspiring to work in sports to take risks and pursue their passions, emphasizing the importance of looking at each moment as a learning opportunity. She also urges them to invest in what “puts a natural joy in your heart.”

“Embrace discomfort as you navigate barriers and challenges, never give up in the face of adversity, and recognize that success often requires sacrifice and hard work,” said Rhymer. “Remember that diversity and inclusion are strengths, and your qualifications and skills are what truly matter in this industry.”

Nicolle Hernandez is a hearing-impaired student at Florida International University. She is a Digital Communication and Media major with a concentration in Digital Journalism. She is also pursuing a minor in Social Media and E-Marketing Analytics. She is passionate about her studies and after graduation, she hopes to explore a career in the digital marketing field.