SHARP, the Sport, Health and Activity Research and Policy Center for Women and Girls, was established in 2010 as a new partnership between the Women’s Sports Foundation and U-M’s School of Kinesiology and the Institute for Research on Women & Gender.
SHARP's mission is to lead research that enhances the scope, experience, and sustainability of participation in sport, play, and movement for women and girls.
Leveraging the research leadership of the University of Michigan with the policy and programming expertise of the Women's Sports Foundation, findings from SHARP research will better inform pubic engagement, advocacy, and implementation to enable more women and girls to be active, healthy, and successful.
This study confirms that while girls’ comparative share of athletic participation opportunities increased between 1993-94 and 1999-2000, progress toward gender equity slowed and, perhaps, even reversed direction during the 2000s.
While the numbers of sports and teams provided to boys and girls increased across the 2000s, here again, the gender gap persisted. On average, U.S. schools provided boys with about a half-sport advantage(or 0.5) over girls across the decade, and boys began and ended the 2000s with an average one- to two-team advantage over girls. Male privilege in high school sports proved to be both pervasive and resilient.
Differences were also found between the number of sports and teams provided by suburban, urban, town and rural schools. The gender gap in sports and teams remained
in all these communities.
Similarly, while schools with greater economic resources provided more athletic activities than their less economically viable counterparts, boys consistently ended up with more sports and teams than girls did across the entire economic spectrum.
The decade of the 2000s can be understood as an era of lost opportunity in several ways. Generally, whether they know about Title IX or not, most Americans endorse equal opportunity for girls and boys in sport.19 Parents want their daughters and sons to be treated fairly in all areas of school life.20
Indeed, there seems to be an “illusion of equality” among many Americans, an unspoken assumption that girls have finally “made it” in sport and that gender equality is either a reality or nearly so.
The assumption of progress, however, is not confirmed by the facts and a lot of parents seem unaware that Title IX applies to high school sports as well as college sports.
In the meantime, many school leaders fail to meet the expectations and needs of the girls in their communities.
The results show that girls were not afforded the same expansion of athletic opportunity as boys, which means that educational leaders failed to grow sport as much as possible.
The failure to create gender equity in sports and the fact that more schools are abandoning athletic programs entirely may be signs of a more pervasive decline in America’s capacity for national and global leadership.
1. The Office for Civil Rights should strengthen its enforcement of Title IX at the secondary school level.
2. Federal policymakers should require high schools to publicly disclose gender equity data about their athletics programs. Given the widespread lack of compliance with Title IX, it is particularly important for communities to have information about how their schools are treating boys and girls in their athletics programs.
3. Urban schools, in particular, should redouble their efforts to increase the numbers of athletic opportunities that they provide to girls. This report reveals that all schools continue to shortchange girls when it comes to allocating athletic participation opportunities.
4. All schools should have Title IX Coordinators and should regularly conduct Title IX self-evaluations to ensure that they are complying with the law.
The good news from this report is that even during the recent economic downturn, most high schools across the country were able to increase athletic opportunities for their students.
The bad news is that girls continue to get the short end of the stick in terms of their share of these valuable opportunities. Schools must commit to treating girls fairly.
They must have Title IX Coordinators, as required by law, and make sure that everyone in their communities knows to whom and how to complain if they have concerns.
They must have the legally required processes and procedures in place to regularly monitor girls’ interests and allow students to request additional teams or sports.
And they should not sit back and hope that no one notices their inequities, but rather should proactively evaluate their programs to make sure they are complying with the law.