HS Gender Participation Gaps Persist

June 25, 2015

Massive gender gaps in participation still plague high school sports, as evidenced by recently analyzed data. As reported by The Washington Post, The National Women's Law Center found that, from a pool of 16,000 high schools, over 4,000 had more than a 10 percent gap between the proportion of girls at the school and the proportion of openings for them on sports teams. 

“Girls across the country are still not getting equal chances to play sports and that’s a big problem,” said Neena Chaudhry, senior counsel at the National Women’s Law Center. “We want to make sure that girls get a fair shot.”

In six southern states and in the District of Columbia, over half of schools had gaps over 10 percent. With student-athletes statistically getting better grades, scoring higher on tests, and having better job prospects, Chaudhry said, the girls at these schools are put at a disadvantage. In addition, according to a recent study by the Law Center, these are schools with a high number of minority girls. To be in compliance with Title IX, the federal civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination, schools must show that there is no gap—that the proportion of slots for girls in athletics roughly corresponds to the proportion of girls in the school.

A long-standing argument against Title IX is that girls are just not interested in playing sports. But the more opportunities that have opened up for girls, the more girls have gotten involved, said Chaudhry.

“A school can’t just sit back and say, ‘Well, girls aren’t interested in playing’ if they haven’t even asked the girls,” Chaudhry said.

The National Women’s Law Center is a non-profit group that advocates for policies and laws that help girls and women. In 2010, they filed a dozen Title IX complaints against schools. Many of these schools have resolved the complaints by surveying their female student body about sports and by adding more athletic opportunities for girls.  

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