My first question was whether athletic opportunities for women in general increased during the time period in question.
- The answer, not surprisingly, is yes. Athletic opportunities for women at NCAA member institutions has increased by 31% -- from 147,683 in 1999-2000 to 193,207 in 2010-2011.
- Half of that overall increase is due to gains in three women's sports: indoor track, outdoor track, and soccer.
- Participation rates within most other women's sports increased as well. In addition to two emerging sports that were discontinued during the time frame in question -- archery and badminton -- only fencing, rifle, skiing, and synchronized swimming showed declining participation rates. All other sports gained some.
Next, I wondered whether opportunities for female athletes of color have increased during this time period as well.
- Again, the answer is yes. Opportunities for women of all minority races (Black, Asian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic/Latina) increased by percentages higher than the mean 31%. For instance, opportunities for Black female athletes increased from 14,001 to 21,615, or 54%. In comparison, opportunities for white female athletes increased from 117,244 to 144,598, or 23%.
- However, these gains for female athletes of color were not enough to significantly change the overall racial distribution of female athletic opportunities. In 1999-2000, 79% of female athletic opportunities went to white athletes, compared to 75% last year -- a change of only four percentage points. Meanwhile, the percentage of female athletic opportunities that went to Black women rose from 9 to 11 percent.
I then wondered whether the present distribution of female athletic opportunities by race is proportionate to racial demographics of the undergraduate population.
- The best data I could find suggests that about 8% of female college undergraduates are black (13.5% of college students are black; 59.3% of black college students are female).
- A total of 14,001 athletic opportunities received by Black women constitutes 11% of women's athletic opportunities, so Black women are not underrepresented in the distribution of women's athletic opportunities.
- Yet when you take into account the general underrepresentation of women in college athletics, the percentage of athletic opportunities for Black women is disproportionately low, since a total of 14,001 athletic opportunities received by black women constitutes only 3% of all athletic opportunities.
- In 1999-2000, there were 14,001 athletic opportunities for black female athletes. 25% of these opportunities were in outdoor track, 21% in indoor track, and 23% in basketball. This not surprising, as reporters, scholars, and advocates have noted for years about this manner of racial segregation within athletics.
- Unfortunately, though participation rates are rising in almost every sport, including two new emerging sports that have been added in the last ten years -- bowling and rugby -- opportunities for black female athletes are still concentrated in track and basketball in percentages nearly identical to those ten years ago.
- Other minority races, though receiving fewer athletic opportunities than black women, were more evenly distributed throughout various sports. Latina/Hispanic women have 7747 athletic opportunities -- 17% in soccer, 14% in softball, 10% in track. Asian women have 3999 athletic opportunities -- 12% in soccer, 11% in tennis, and 10% in track. Finally, just 716 Native American/Alaska Native women have athletic opportunities at NCAA institutions, 18% of these are in softball, followed by 13 and 12% in outdoor and indoor track, respectively.