Every year, the first week of February is dedicated towards the history of women and girls in professional sports, and sports in general– National Girls and Women in Sports Day. This dedication acknowledges the accomplishments of female athletes, the influence of sports participation in girls and women, while honoring the progress, dedication, and struggle for equality for women across all sports.
Research suggests that women are underrepresented in fields such as science, business, engineering, and technology are because they dislike competition. Although, women with backgrounds in competitive sport[s] are more likely to enter career fields which competition is encouraged and expected, like corporate business (Comeig et al., 2016, as cited in, Russell et al., 2017). The term sport is almost synonymous with competition. Even for a historical perspective, the term competition and sport participation between girls and boys have been significantly different. I’m sure you can guess why with little information… if you said gender norms, you’re absolutely correct. Yet to this day, these gender norms are still adamant in sports—boys are encouraged to participate in sports to reinforce dominant, assertive, and masculine norms whereas girls were discouraged for these very reasons (Russell et al., 2017).
Women or girls don’t need to change to be involved or participate in competitive sports, contrary to popular belief. As someone who played competitive sports for the majority of their life, you could not only see but feel that you were different compared to the boys team. Your team could go undefeated for the entire season and the boys team could not win a game once, but they would still be talked about, praised more, and have their sport taken more serious compared to the girls’ team [even when it was the same sport!]. This “fix women” mentality in sports, (“if women could be more like men, they could be more successful in sport”) reinforces that the problem starts and end with women and girls along with their athletic ability. While this is not only incredibly untrue and misogynistic, it also ignores individual differences between men and women by making assumptions about all men and all women and why they compete in sports. Finally, not all sports are individual competitions, many require teams (Russell et al., 2017).
It is evident that women appear to be more similar than they are different compared to their male counterparts in competitive sports. Even though sport[s] was a way for men to prove their dominance and masculinity, women’s participation in the same sports challenged this status quo and broke barriers. For little girls like me, participating in these sports was my way of showing that I belonged in the sport and was good at it, regardless of my gender. It’s nationally recognized days like National Girls and Women in Sports Day that makes it important to show all children the importance of equality.
Fisher, M. L. (2017). The Oxford handbook of women and competition (M. L. Fisher (Ed.)). Oxford University Press.
Russell, H. C., Dutove, J., & Dithurbide, L. (2017). “Playing like a girl”: Women in competition in sport and physical activity. In M. L. Fisher (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of women and competition. (pp. 785–798). Oxford University Press
Written by: Abrea, 2021 Undergraduate Intern
Want to talk to someone who can help? If you would like to speak to a professional counselor or psychologist about this or other negative thoughts and are in the Chicagoland area, please feel free to contact Olive Branch Counseling Associates, Inc. at 708-633-8000. We are located at 6819 West 167th Street in Tinley Park, Illinois 60477.