La J’ai Reed

(Rock Hill, S.C.) — The world of sports, and the role of female athletes, has certainly evolved since the days of the peach basket hoop and the moleskin football helmet.

Nevertheless, while men’s sports have excelled in drawing fan attention and generating revenue, women continue to struggle to garner similar opportunities.

Title IX was passed in 1972 to ensure that no individuals, on the basis of sex, could be discriminated against in programs or activities.

Lauren McCoy, program director for Winthrop University’s Sports and Fitness Administration program and an assistant professor of sport management, is a sports lawyer who has researched the role of women in sports.

She was a guest on the Palmetto Report podcast to discuss the issue.

McCoy has examined cases associated with Title IX and Title VII, which prohibits employment discrimination, which has allowed her to gain a unique perspective on the issues women face in sports.

“I would say that the general status, when it comes to women and girls in sport, is we’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go,” McCoy said.

Alexis Gandy, a Winthrop graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in physical education and coaching, said she also feels there is room for improvement for the treatment of women in athletics.

“Current status (of women in sports), in my opinion, is that they are undervalued, but small strides have happened,” said Gandy, who also serves as the recreation coordinator for ROAR Sports in Rock Hill. “Still a long way to go though, (but) a little progress is better than no progress.”

For example, many professional women’s leagues are seeking the same benefits as men’s leagues, in order to create a more level playing field.

In January, the Women’s National Basketball Player’s Association, reached a new collective bargaining agreement that now includes child care and maternity benefits, higher salaries and improved travel agreements.

“I think that what (the agreement) does more is help them out from the business perspective,” said McCoy.

“That means that there is more viability when it comes to women’s sports,” she said. “We’re seeing a lot more people focusing on it than we have, in say, the past five years.”

While positions of power in women’s leagues are often dominated by men, McCoy said her research shows that issues in women’s sports are not primarily gender issues.

“I think if anything what we need to do more to encourage our girls is to do more to celebrate those (women’s) sports,” she said.

“It’s all about making sure that we allow people to be able to still chase the dream and part of that is making it so that the dream is viable for whoever we’re talking about.”

For Gandy, she said she hopes the “viable dream” includes all women involved in athletics.

“I hope that there are not only advances for the athletes, but the workers as well,” she said.

“Female workers in the sports field are under appreciated and shouldn’t be forgotten about,” Gandy said. “I think awareness creates change.”

While McCoy has only been at Winthrop since August, she said she has already seen some progress on campus that could lead to advancements in athletics.

“Winthrop is definitely committed to diversity and addressing different needs for various people,” she said.

“Male or female, we can find a way and there is a way,” McCoy said. “It’s really all about that kind of supportive attitude here at Winthrop to make sure that we’re not going to let these barriers be essentially brick walls, we can find ways to either create a door or knock down a wall.”