Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Research Summary: Addressing the Needs of Female Professional and Amateur Athletes

Addressing the Needs of Female Professional and Amateur Athletes
Women's Sports Foundation

I expected this report, which presents focus group results from 1999, to primarily center on unequal pay and facilities. Although the report included this information I was much more interested by the unexpected focus on communications, representation and promotional issues faced by female athletes.

It is hard not to wonder how many female athletes are still facing challenges in these same areas. Although this report was written a decade ago and important deep lasting attitudinal changes have certainly been made by women in sports, it describes some of the more insidious ways that female athletes have been held back in their professional pursuits, forms of sexism that by their very subtlety sometimes escape open analysis and criticism. I encourage you to read about some of the challenges these athletes experience in regards to communications, representation, and promotion and let us know if you think things have changed or mostly remained the same.

Communication issues include getting late notice on training camps or events, which results in many women having trouble accommodating these schedules with the one (or two, or more) jobs they have to maintain to pay for training. There are also problems with coaches, who many women feel don't listen adequately.

Representation issues manifest in a few different ways. National governing boards must be comprised of at least 20% athletes. Though this is followed, most athletes don't feel their needs are actually represented by those athletes on boards. A broader criticism was the lack of women athletes administrating on governing boards or in other visible positions. Lastly, though finding agents has become easier for women athletes, especially soccer and basketball players, it still remains far more difficult than for male athletes.

Promotion presents problems since the media coverage is imperative to a sports popularity today. Athletes felt their sports and games weren't promoted well. Furthermore, when promotion does happen, it sometimes plays on the sexualization of these women. When they express resistance to wearing unnecessarily skimpy outfits or being exploited as sexual objects, they are met with indifference and hostility (which ties into communication and representation issues).

From a design and organization perspective, this 16 page report starts with an executive summary and has graphs throughout. I really appreciated the bold, concise titles and subtitles. By clearly labeling and keeping each section brief, readers can easily skim and find the issues most relevant to them. This may seem obvious, but you'd be surprised how few reports are well-marked internally.

What do you think? Are these obstacles still alive and well?

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