Wednesday, June 06, 2007

New Numbers Show Men's Sports Gaining Overall

The Women's Sports Foundation released a new study on participation levels in men's and women's sports. The data show that women's and men's participation levels have increased in the last 10 years, but men still outnumber women among college athletes, about 60/40. The data also illustrate that most of the gains for women's sports came in the late 90s rather than more recent years, suggesting that gender equity efforts are stalled.

The study, authored by Dr. John Cheslock of the University of Arizona's Center for the Study of Higher Education, acknowledges that a few men’s sports like wrestling and men's tennis have suffered substantial declines. But the overall number of male athletes has increased in that same time period, due to substantial gains in other sports like football, baseball, and lacrosse.

These figures should help dispel the myth that Title IX hurts men. Contrary to the image perpetuated by Title IX opponents that Title IX forces schools to redistribute limited opportunities away from men to give to women, the numbers show that schools have been adding opportunities more than they have been taking away, and that the beneficiaries of such additions continue to be men. As for the claims of particular downsized men's sports, they are on the losing side of a preference shift within men's sports, which is an unfortunate position, but one that has nothing to do with Title IX. According to the New York Times, Billie Jean King, WSF's founder, explained it to the press this way:
People ask, "What happened to my wrestling or tennis teams?" Well, things have shifted. We keep reading that men’s sports teams are being taken away. The fact is, women remain the underrepresented sex in athletics.
Another interesting feature of WSF's new study is that you can look up individual institutions to see how the WSF grades them on gender equity in athletics. Western New England College, this blogger's institution, received a B+. My alma mater, University of New Hampshire, got an A-.


Paul said...

The problem with the WSF grades is that they appear to be biased in favor of schools with a relatively low female population, and they don't appear to give any weight to the variety of sports programs available to students of either sex. The Citadel, where the female population is about 6%, gets an A because 28.7% of its student athletes are female. However, it only has 6 interscholastic sports programs for female athletes (and they don't include basketball or softball) vs. 8 for male students (including basketball and baseball). On the other hand, Delaware State gets an F, apparently because 59% of its undergraduate students are female, but only 36.2% of its student athletes. On the other hand, Delaware State offers 10 programs for its female students vs. 8 for its male students. So, while Delaware State has a smaller percentage of female student athletes than does the Citadel, it also offers its female students a greater variety of interscholastic sports to choose from.

(For the record, I chose those two schools at random. I don't have anyh ties to either of them)
On the other hand, Delaware State

EBuz said...

Paul, your point about the Citadel is well taken. I thought the study's authors had excluded schools that are predominantly male or predominantly female, but that doesn't appear to be the case. With only 6% women in their student body, their "A" is not exactly hard-earned.

But I'm afraid I don't give the variety of teams factor much weight. I think the fact that women at DSU have 2 more teams to choose from is hardly an advantage, given that women's odds of being a student athlete in the first place are less than half* of men's odds.

*Based on population data available at the DoE's website, a woman at Delaware State has only a 6.3% chance of being a student athlete, while a male student has a 15.8% chance.

Paul said...

My basic criticism of the WSF grading system is that it looks strictly at proportionality and doesn't appear to consider any other factors.

It looks like the study excludes single-sex institutions like Smith or Hampden-Sydney (the only male only college I'm aware of), but not colleges where one sex or the other has an overwhelming majority. In fact the studies grading system seems to favor institutions with such overwhelming majorities like the Citadel (which didn't even accept female students until a court ordered them to do so sometime in the 1990s) and--at the other extreme--Texas Womens University, which gets an "A" even though it has *no* intercollegiate athletic programs for its male undergrads.

The study also doesn't take into account how some colleges got their A. Should we praise a school like Providence College, which has sought to achieve proportionality not by increasing opportunities for femal students but primarily by cutting programs (like baseball, men's golf and men's tennis) for male athletes?

As for schools like Delaware State, I'm not going to pretend that it deserves an A, but might there be some factors that would merit giving it at least a D or D-?

For example, many of the schools with a grade of D or lower (including Delaware State) are traditionally black institutions. I have no idea why this is the case (and it may be pure coincidence), but it raises the question of whether there are some additional hurdles that make it more difficult for these institutions to achieve gender equity.

Finally, doesn't grading institutions strictly on proportionality give credence to the Title IX opponents who say that the first prong is the only one that really matters?

EBuz said...

Paul, I think that if OCR, the agency that enforces Title IX, only looked at proportionality and "graded" schools on that fact, then you'd be right -- it would appear to be disingenuous to suggest that there are three alternative ways to comply with Title IX.

But WSF does not enforce the statute. It's a private organization free to endorse and encourage schools to comply with prong one, and do so by "rewarding" (with an A) and "punishing" (with an F) schools that don't meet their ideal.

WSF grades are like the Good Housekeeping seal of approval. It doesn't tells you whether the product is safe or legal, only that it meets someone's high standard of quality. If a consumer doesn't agree with the criteria they use to give out the seal of approval, that person doesn't have to factor it in when drawing an opinion about the product.