Discrimination Against Women in College Sports is Getting Worse

Champion Women performed an in-depth analysis of data available from the Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act. Because athletics is sex-segregated, discrimination and gaps are easy to measure. The data shows discrimination throughout intercollegiate sports and that the inequality is growing at an unrestrained rate. Key findings include:

  • 90% of universities and colleges discriminate against women in sports. Our analysis shows that most intercollegiate athletic departments are not meeting any of the standards Title IX sets for schools to demonstrate equality in sports opportunities.
  • Women miss out on $1 billion in athletics scholarships annually. NCAA schools alone allocate $3.5 billion to college scholarships, yet female student athletes are routinely denied hundreds of millions of dollars.
  • NCAA institutions would need to provide women an additional 148,030 sports opportunities to match the same ratio of opportunities that are offered to men.

Women cannot move to another competitive tier or geographic region to escape the sex discrimination. Data for the entire NCAA, NAIA, NJCAA, and USCAA paints a clear picture that intentional discrimination against women is not isolated to specific conferences, competitive levels, or geographic regions.

Contrary to the perception by some that Title IX has achieved its goals of equality in collegiate sports, women lag behind men by every measurable criterion, and dramatically so. The Raw Gap in the 2018-2019 academic year between men’s and women’s sports opportunities was a staggering 63,149 women. This means that last year alone, NCAA schools provided women with 63,149 fewer sports opportunities than these schools provided men.

But that raw number, calculated by subtracting women’s opportunities from men’s, does not reflect the true measure of sex discrimination in athletic departments. Women are 56.5% of the student-body. If universities offered women the same sports opportunities they provide men, these schools would be offering an additional 148,030 opportunities for women to play each year. Currently, schools are providing 3.93 opportunities to play sports for every 100 male students on campus. If women’s opportunities were equitable to men’s, NCAA institutions would need to provide women with an additional 148,030 additional sports opportunities. In the graph below, this is the space that represents the True Discrimination Gap.

It is misleading to look at the upward trending line for both men’s and women’s sports participation opportunities, and claim victory for women and Title IX. Both the Raw Gap and the True Discrimination Gap have been growing since 1989, over 30 years. To achieve equality for women in intercollegiate athletics, we must take into account the faster rate of growth for men’s sports, even when women are attending higher education at higher rates. Although the True Discrimination Gap is more accurate, both the Raw Discrimination Gap and the True Discrimination Gap document immense intentional discrimination in intercollegiate sports.

The upward trend in sports opportunities for women doesn’t tell the whole story. The True Discrimination Gap is much larger than we thought.