While the men’s teams had access to a full weight room that would rival most gyms, the women’s teams had access to a single rack of dumbbells that didn’t go above 40 pounds and a few yoga mats.
Initially, the NCAA claimed that the lack of equipment was due to space restrictions, but the empty foyer adjacent to the practice courts seemed to say otherwise.
The issue has since been resolved, with the women’s teams gaining access to a complete set of equipment. But that isn’t the issue.
In past years, the inequalities between the tournaments hadn’t been as noticeable because games for both tournaments were held in multiple venues throughout the nation, rather than in one city. It was only due to COVID-19 restrictions that these differences became apparent.
This issue isn’t new.
Women’s sports have always been undervalued. They receive less air time, fewer sponsorships and fewer advertisements.
When disparity in fitness equipment came to light, the NCAA backed their decisions up with evidence about money. The men’s tournament earns over $864 million, whereas the women’s tournament loses $2 million.
Unfortunately, the decisions the NCAA made about accommodations for male and female athletes weren’t rooted in just the organization’s innate sexism. They were rooted in our society’s behavior and trends toward women.
In the United States, nearly half the workforce is made up of women, but only a third of management positions are held by women. In the United States, where over half of the country is made up of women, only a quarter of the seats in U.S. Congress are held by women, the highest that number has ever been. In the United States, the WNBA brings in .8 percent of the revenue that the NBA does.
In order to confront the issues facing gender inequality in college sports, we need to confront the systemic gender inequalities present in our society.
Women are still underrepresented and undervalued. While things may appear equal on the surface, sexism is rooted more deeply into our daily lives than we realize.
Advocacy is essential. We need to hold organizations like the NCAA accountable when they have shortcomings. We need to support women athletes and call for equal treatment and sponsorships.
The first step in closing this gap in college basketball should be the NCAA investing in its female athletes. While social media users have been voicing their disdain for the inequality, it is up to the institution to enact change.