In sports, gender disparities persist
On Feb. 20, the Yale men’s hockey team celebrated its senior night at a sold-out Ingalls Rink. The Bulldogs defeated Clarkson University, 3–1, in the presence of 3,500 fans from the Yale and greater New Haven communities.
Just a week earlier, the Yale women’s hockey team’s class of 2016 had its own senior night, playing in its last home regular season contest against conference opponent Cornell University. There was one key difference: This time, 444 fans showed up to the game.
The disparities extend beyond Ingalls Rink. Yale men’s teams in general bring overwhelmingly more fans to the stands than women’s teams. And on the sidelines, head coaches of men’s teams last year made nearly $40,000 more, on average, than those of women’s teams — the second-highest wage gap in Ivy League athletic departments.
Much of the discrepancy stems from a larger societal trend: Nationwide, members of women’s sports teams get paid less than their men’s sports counterparts. Most recently, a federal complaint filed by members of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team alleged wage discrimination based on gender, noting that the women on the team make at least 40 percent less than players on the men’s national team, despite more prominent success on the field.
Interviews with Yale head coaches, athletics administrators and over 45 students, including 30 athletes of both genders across 27 of Yale’s 35 varsity teams, shed light on the current state of women’s sports at the collegiate level — and at Yale, specifically.
BUILDING A BALANCED ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT
When asked what helps make a sports program competitively strong, Yale Director of Athletics Tom Beckett cited factors such as budget, equipment, team culture and coaching. He added that the athletic department’s goal is “to strive to win championships in all programs.”
(Robbie Short, Staff Photographer)
“We seek to create equal opportunities to support all of our athletic teams,” Beckett said. “Often we make strategic investments in programs in order to improve or sustain, their win-loss record.”
On the issue of budget, specifically, numbers available through the U.S. Department of Education show that men’s and women’s sports are treated relatively equally at Yale. Without counting the $3,205,058 spent on football — which necessitates very high expenses but has a self-supporting budget — expenditures on men’s sports totaled $7,769,336 in 2014–15, and women’s sports expenses were only slightly lower, percentage-wise, at $7,418,521.
Still, data show a discrepancy in the salaries of coaches, whom the majority of people interviewed, including Beckett, described as an important factor for seeing success on the fields.
College coaches are responsible for recruiting athletes, developing their skills and, during games, strategizing against opponents. The best of them, such as Nick Saban of Alabama football or Geno Auriemma of Connecticut women’s basketball, command salaries well into the seven-figures.
At Yale, the average salary for a head coach of a men’s team in 2014–15 was $123,564. For women’s teams that number was nearly $40,000 lower, at $83,824.
Similarly, Yale assistant coaches for men’s teams earn an average of $61,278, while those for women’s teams make $37,239.
Here, too, football, a sport with high expenses and no women’s team equivalent, plays a role in skewing these numbers. But with 16 head coach salaries included in the average for men’s teams and 18 for women’s, Yale football head coach Tony Reno would have had to command a salary of $719,664 to cause the disjunction entirely.
Beckett said those 2014–15 figures represent just a “one-year snapshot” of the athletic department, and that statistics over time are a more accurate representation of Yale expenditures on coaches’ salaries. But over the past five years, the wage gap at Yale has averaged $39,352, second-highest in the Ivy League, and over the past 10, it averaged $27,758, again the second-highest in the conference.
(Samuel Wang, Production & Design Editor)
Princeton, with a 10-year average difference of $13,931 between men’s team and women’s team head coach salaries — and a narrower gap of $5,563 last year — has historically had the most equivalence in salaries. Cornell, at $37,783 over the past 10 years, has shown the biggest differences.
Beckett said that when determining a coach’s salary, the department considers experience, time of tenure and competitive performance, as well as data on positions at comparable institutions from the Western Management Group, which compiles data using surveys of participating institutions.
Women’s lacrosse head coach Erica LaGrow said that factors such as longevity, experience and results are used to decide who is hired and how much they are paid, regardless of gender.
Still, a member of the women’s swimming and diving team thought that increasing the expenditure on head coaches of women’s sports would be helpful in equalizing the department.
“Women’s teams need good coaches and better recruiters so our teams can make similar gains that our male programs have done in recent years,” the swimmer said. “Numbers like that — a pay gap of $40,000 — help indicate that women’s and men’s teams do not get the same level of coaches and recruiters.”
The head coach of a women’s team, who asked to remain anonymous, said a coach’s salary raise is always directly related to his or her team’s performance.
“But if you don’t get the things you need [in order] to be successful, it becomes kind of a cycle,” the coach said. “Some of the teams are always going to get that percentage [raise].”
Some students interviewed speculated that the disparity in wages might be related to the difference in revenue made by women’s and men’s teams. Auriemma, for example, makes $2 million, while UConn men’s basketball head coach Kevin Ollie makes $3 million. Auriemma himself has explained publicly that the difference is due to the fact that Ollie’s program brings in more money than the UConn women’s team does.
Revenues for Yale men’s sports, not including football, totaled $7,794,993 in 2014–15, while those for women’s sports was $7,433,085. However, this data is not entirely useful in examining external revenue from sources such as ticket sales and fundraisers. Former Senior Associate Athletic Director Forrest Temple told the News last year that revenues allocated to teams include annual endowment yield, in addition to annual giving and team-specific revenues.
Still, Beckett did not list revenue as a determining factor for a coach’s salary. He also said endowments for coaching positions — which exist for more than half of Yale teams and are nearly evenly distributed across teams of both genders, including men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s hockey and women’s lacrosse — do not play a role in determining compensation.
AT PRINCETON: MORE MONEY, SUCCESS, FANS
Princeton is a notable exception to the Ivy League’s wage gaps, with a difference of men’s and women’s sports coaching salaries more than three times smaller than at the average Ancient Eight school over the last five years.
The school has had the highest salary for head coaches of women’s teams in the 2014–15 school year, at $104,195. Columbia, the Ivy school with the second-highest such average, pays the head coaches of its women’s teams’ nearly $20,000 less, at an average of $86,060.
Princeton has also won the most Ivy League Championships in not just women’s sports, but also men’s sports over the past 10 years. Women at Princeton tallied 57 Ivy titles between 2005–06 and 2014–15, and the men have recorded 51 over the same period. At Yale, these numbers are 18 and 15, respectively, and Yale has also recorded three Ivy titles — men’s squash, men’s hockey and men’s basketball — thus far in the current school year.
(Samuel Wang, Production & Design Editor)
Notably, in three sports for which Yale men’s teams have garnered significant attention and success in 2015–16 — basketball, hockey and lacrosse — Princeton’s women have been competitive on a national level this year. In addition to an at-large bid to the 2016 NCAA Tournament in women’s basketball, the Tigers finished No. 7 in women’s hockey and are currently ranked No. 11 in women’s lacrosse.
That success has translated to more fans in the stands. In the 2015–16 season, the number of spectators at Princeton’s women’s basketball games averaged 1,158, according to Princeton’s public attendance records.
While that is still just about half the number of fans who gather for the Princeton men’s basketball team — which was undefeated at home, and finished second in the Ivy League to Yale with a 12–2 conference record — it is nearly six times larger than the average fan base at Yale’s women’s basketball games.
IN RECRUITING POLICIES, LITTLE CLARITY
The best coaches are often the strongest recruiters. Coaches at Ivy League schools, especially, are tasked with the challenge of recruiting talented players while also conforming to a unique set of conference policies.
The Ivy League enforces a cap on the number of athletes a school may recruit, in addition to academic standards that each class of recruited athletes must meet.
The Academic Index, established by the Ivy League in the 1980s, gives college applicants a score, generally thought to have a maximum of 240, corresponding to their high school GPAs and standardized test scores. According to a 2012 New York Times article, Ivy League schools cannot admit a recruited athlete with an AI below 176, with very few exceptions, and the overall group of recruited athletes at a school cannot have an average AI lower than one standard deviation below that of the school’s entire student body.
(Hope Allchin, Contributing Photographer)
In late 2011, Beckett told the Times that his department gives each coach a target AI to meet with his or her recruiting classes. Now five years later, when asked if these targets vary between men’s and women’s teams, Beckett told the News only that a “set of individual and cohort-based academic standards” exists both for Yale and the Ivy League. He added that all admissions decisions are made by the Yale Office of Admissions, and he declined to comment further.
Yale Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeremiah Quinlan said the AI is not something the Admissions Office heavily considers, as the office does a “holistic review” of each applicant. He added that he did not think there is any connection between Academic Index policy and team success.
“All the recruited athletes, as a group, have an AI that is close to the AI of the enrolled students,” Quinlan said. “To me, there’s no difference between reviewing a male applicant and a female applicant.”
The anonymous women’s team coach, however, contended that recruiting decisions made in the athletic department often advantage certain teams over others.
The coach described a prevalent “hierarchy” in the Yale athletic department, in which benefits are often given to the department’s “favorite sports.”
“If you have someone like a [world-class athlete] that you’d like to get in there, [the athletics administration] says that they will try to help you, but I don’t think they try as hard for some of the sports as they would for a number one hockey player from Canada,” the coach said.
DISPARITY IN THE STANDS
Perhaps the most visual representation of the divide in men’s and women’s sports comes in attendance numbers. Both nationally and at Yale, fan presence at male sports events overshadows that at women’s events.
“I feel the athletics department treats both men’s and women’s sports very similarly as both are held in high regard on campus, [but] I do notice that there is a much higher turnout for men’s games as opposed to women’s,” men’s hockey forward Frankie DiChiara ’17 said. “Not always, and not in every sport, but that seems to be the case at times, especially with hockey.”
Yale athletics keeps public attendance records only for select spectator sports: baseball and softball, basketball, field hockey, football, hockey, lacrosse, soccer and volleyball. Senior Associate Athletic Director of Ticket Operations Jeremy Makins referred to this data when asked about attendance numbers. For sports that are not ticketed, these numbers are procured by both “headcounts and estimates,” he said.
For all teams that have a men’s and women’s equivalent, attendance numbers are heavily skewed towards the men’s events.
In the 2015–16 season, an average of 1,459 fans flocked to watch Yale men’s basketball home games. For women’s games, that figure was 208. In the 2014–15 lacrosse season, 907 fans attended men’s games on average, compared to 281 for women’s contests.
(Samuel Wang, Production & Design Editor)
Attendance records show that soccer is the sport with the most equivalent spectator numbers. Still, the men’s attendance average of 863 last fall was nearly twice that of women’s soccer, which averaged 480 fans per game.
The majority of students interviewed said they do not frequently attend Yale sporting events, but most noted that when they do, they tend to watch men’s teams.
Some student-athletes speculated that scheduled game times could influence the number of students present, as more fans may be available on Friday or Saturday nights, for example, than earlier in the afternoon. When teams that share a facility compete on the same day, coaches and athletic administrators must work together to determine the order of the games, Senior Associate Athletic Director Andy Dunn said.
In basketball and hockey, time conflicts have happened between zero and three times per year over the past six seasons. In each case — five times in basketball and six in hockey — the men have played in the evening and the women have played earlier.
The Yale athletic department charges non-students for tickets to both men’s and women’s hockey, in addition to football, both basketball teams and men’s lacrosse. Men’s hockey goalie Patrick Spano ’17 thought that money may be involved in the department’s scheduling decisions.
“[The athletic department] knows that the guys’ games are going to bring in more fans and so they want to put it on prime time,” Spano said. “If the girls’ teams were going to make more money [and get as many fans] they would put them in the 7 p.m. slot. Saturday at 2 p.m. most people are probably busy.”
Dunn said in an email to the News that game times are “strategically chosen” in order to maximize the ability for fans to attend games. But he added that while increased attendance does positively affect revenue, providing an “exceptional game-day atmosphere” for student-athletes was still the most important.
Meanwhile, in soccer and lacrosse — sports in which nearly every men’s home game is scheduled on the same day as a women’s home game — the team that plays earlier varies throughout the year. Still, these sports both feature an average attendance disparity of at least 44 percent during home games.
“There tends to be a tradition where girls and boys go to watch boys’ games, but the same is not to be said for women’s games,” women’s soccer midfielder Margaret Furlong ’18 said. “It just doesn’t seem to be a huge part of our campus’s culture to go all out for women’s games.”
A NATIONAL DILEMMA
That trend extends beyond Yale’s campus. Both non-athletes and student-athletes on multiple Yale teams highlighted that discrepancies in attendance are prevalent nationwide, not just at the Yale level.
Viewership for men’s and women’s NCAA Division I Basketball Tournaments proves as much. Just this year, 17.8 million viewers tuned in for the men’s final, while only 3.0 million watched the women’s contest.
Just before the finals, an op-ed written by Andrew Zimbalist in The New York Times highlighted the inequality in the NCAA basketball tournament — which rewards men’s teams’ conferences for their victories in the tournament but does not offer the same for women’s teams’ conferences.
“Over at the men’s tournament, the NCAA pays for success: Each game a team plays (not including the championship) earns the team’s conference roughly $260,000 this year plus $260,000 each of the five following years,” Zimbalist wrote. “By contrast, a win in the women’s tournament brings a reward of exactly zero dollars. That’s right, zero dollars.”
The fact that two of the most popular sports traditions in the U.S. — the Super Bowl and March Madness — focus primarily on male teams only furthers the gender gap in sports, women’s fencer Joanna Lew ’17 said.
Women’s golf head coach Chawwadee Rompothong ’00 also noted that two of the more popular American sports are football and baseball — both of which are male only.
“When it comes down to it, boys’ [and] men’s sports always felt like they’ve had a bigger presence since I was very young, and I think because of that fact we’ve just, in a way, been programmed to gravitate towards men’s sporting events,” women’s lacrosse goalie Sydney Marks ’18 said.
Multiple athletes said the reason for this may be simply biological. According to several students, the attention given to men’s sports is deep-rooted in society because male athletes tend to hold inherent physical advantages over females.
Even some female athletes interviewed said men’s sports can be more exciting to watch because of the athletes’ physical abilities.
“Men’s squash is faster-paced, and their points are longer,” women’s squash player Georgia Blatchford ’16 said. “Even as a woman, I would have to say that for the most part men’s squash is more exciting to watch. It can be frustrating, because as a woman I feel like I devote so much time and energy to my sport, but my physical capabilities are just biologically different than a man’s.”
An anonymous female athlete said the faster-paced play of men’s sports is due to men often being “fitter, stronger, faster” than their female counterparts.
Because of the faster pace, the athlete said, she generally prefers watching men’s sporting events. Spano agreed, noting that the different physical traits can make men’s sports more appealing than women’s sports.
“I can understand why men’s professional leagues are more popular in general,” Spano said. “Men’s sports are faster and more aggressive and that appeals to more sports fans.”
Yet others wholeheartedly disputed the notion that women’s sports should be considered on a different level than male sports.
Women’s hockey captain and forward Krista Yip-Chuck ’17 said despite “traditional notions” that lead to a larger fan presence at male sporting events, she finds that whenever she invites friends — many of whom are male Yale athletes — to her hockey games, they enjoy the experience and come to other games again later in the season.
“It is, I hope, obvious that it’s not a superior experience to watch men’s over women’s, and I hope that over time the fan bases will equilibrate,” Lew said. “It will take people noticing the inequality and acting on it, though. It’s culturally passed on that we watch men’s basketball, football, et cetera.”
For some students, the larger presence of men’s sports on campus is exactly what motivates them to attend games in the first place — creating a cycle wherein higher fan presence at some games motivates even more students to go to those games, furthering the imbalance.
Davi Lemos ’19 said he chooses to go to the sporting events with the highest attendance, because he enjoys feeling part of a crowd instead of just watching. That means he usually attends men’s sports, he added, because those teams bring more people to the stands.
“I think that at times it is much more fun to go watch boys you know play their sports because it is a much more social event,” Furlong said. “But it is sometimes difficult to raise the same attention for women’s sports.”
MORE WINS, MORE FANS
One way to break the trend, some students said, is to convince spectators that they have a chance to see an important win.
Multiple students interviewed said they make the decision to attend a game based on the team’s competitiveness; teams with a chance to win a championship tend to play more meaningful and exciting contests, making their attendance feel more worthwhile.
At an international level, for example, the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team has drawn fans to women’s soccer in record numbers because of its performance. On July 5, 2015, the USWNT defeated Japan, 5–2, for its third-ever Women’s World Cup title. Nearly 27 million viewers across the United States tuned in for the final, making it the most-watched soccer match, men’s or women’s, in U.S. history.
The viewership record likely had much to do with the difference in competitiveness between the U.S. women and their male counterparts: The U.S. men’s national team has not made the World Cup semifinal since 1930, the first-ever playing of the event. The women, meanwhile, have placed in the top three for all seven Women’s World Cups in history.
But at Yale over the past few years, the opposite trend has emerged in nearly every sport that draws a high number of fans.
(Robbie Short, Staff Photographer)
Perhaps more Yale teams this year than at any other time recently have earned national headlines for their success. Achievements this year include an NCAA basketball tournament berth and an upset victory in the first round; a national team championship in squash; and No. 1 rankings in lacrosse and crew, both heavyweight and lightweight.
But this year, all of these squads are men’s teams.
Assuming the Yale men’s lacrosse team makes the NCAA tournament this season — a near certainty, given the team’s current 10–1 record and No. 4 national ranking — Yale will have earned eight tournament appearances in men’s basketball, lacrosse and hockey over a span of the past five years.
By comparison, Yale’s women’s teams in those same three sports have earned zero NCAA tournament berths in the past eight years, one since 2004 and four since 1984.
Beckett pointed out several women’s teams that have achieved notable performances in the 21st century.
In the last five years ending in 2014–15, Yale women’s teams have won 11 Ivy League Championships, mostly in two sports: The Yale women’s tennis team won three conference titles from 2011–13, and the Yale volleyball team won five from 2010–14. Yale also added championships in field hockey, women’s golf and women’s squash, all in 2011.
Women’s squash also won a national championship in 2011, and female sailors were part of three national championships — coed fleet racing, coed team racing and women’s fleet racing — last spring.
“These ebbs and flows of female and male competitive success are consistent with the national landscape of college athletics,” Beckett said.
However, multiple students noted a perception that there has been a large discrepancy in competitiveness this year, perhaps because success has come from the more high-profile male teams on campus. Men’s lacrosse, basketball and hockey games are by far the most well-attended Yale sporting events, other than football.
“I think that people show up more to male’s sports because those male teams at Yale have seen more success,” said one member of the Yale women’s swimming and diving team.
Marks said that when teams are doing well relative to other teams in the country, their games are “more exciting” and draw more people to the stands. She noted that this is true for both women’s and men’s sports.
For example, the Yale volleyball team has been consistently at the top of the Ivy League for the past decade, with five consecutive conference titles between 2010 and 2014 and a third-place showing this past year.
Bulldog fans have responded to this success with more support than for any other women’s sport — in the 2015–16 season, an average of 528 fans were present at Yale’s 10 home volleyball games. By contrast, the Yale women’s basketball team — which placed sixth in the Ancient Eight this season after finishing third or fourth for the prior five years, and also plays its conference games in John J. Lee Amphitheater on weekend nights — brought an average of just 208 fans to its 15 home games this year.
A WORK IN PROGRESS
At Yale, some change has begun among both individual teams and student organizations with the goal of increasing attention toward women’s sports.
Recognizing the higher number of spectators at men’s squash matches, David Talbott, the head coach for both men’s and women’s squash, took action to try to level attendance numbers.
After he took over the women’s program in 2005, Talbott changed the structure of squash matches so that men and women now compete simultaneously. He said having both teams in the Brady Squash Center at the same time showcased women’s squash to spectators who normally only attend the men’s games.
“Attendance for male events has been predominantly stronger and that’s one way we have addressed it,” Talbott said. “When you play both at once you can get people to support both and realize [women’s squash] is not only just as exciting but the level is just as high. It’s just another way of putting the product out there in front of people.”
But Talbott recognized the unique circumstances of squash facilities and noted that the same cannot be done for all sports, many of which play at venues where only one game can be played at a time.
Beckett said the department has added additional staff recently to focus on social media and marketing efforts for all of Yale’s athletic programs. One of those hires this year was assistant athletic director for external operations Erica Egan, who now manages Yale athletics’ social media accounts.
Egan said she decides what to post on the accounts based on what teams are in-season and performing well, regardless of gender.
Still, the anonymous women’s team head coach cited difficulty getting support from the athletics administration. The coach said whenever the team wants its events to be promoted, program members have to be the ones actively seeking out publicity. The initiative does not originate from the athletics department, according to the coach.
“I should not have to constantly beg, plead, try to do things to make my team better and it shouldn’t just be that way,” the coach said. “If they have tiers or have to limit something for you they should tell you. You should know that ahead of time. You shouldn’t have to go in and keep asking and asking and keep getting turned down.”
The Whaling Crew, a student group on campus supporting Yale athletics, is also doing its part to improve attendance at women’s events. Former Whaling Crew president Matthew Sant-Miller ’17 highlighted as an example a cookout the group hosted on Old Campus this fall, meant to build excitement before the volleyball team’s home opener.
“In my personal opinion, the biggest challenge is the wide-scale societal bias towards male sports over female sports,” Sant-Miller said. “However, by continuing to enthusiastically support women’s sports, I hope that the Whaling Crew will help increase attendance and slowly start to erode this bias at Yale.”
The group has also hosted a tailgate for the Yale men’s and women’s soccer games against Harvard in the fall, and other tailgates for Yale baseball and softball doubleheaders last Saturday.
Multiple female athletes interviewed also said they themselves could do more by attending more women’s games and encouraging their friends to go as well.
“The next time a friend asks me to hang out and watch TV, I should switch on a women’s game and not a men’s,” Lew said. “I think that if we want the broader community to appreciate the seriousness and worth of women’s sports we need to lead the way. That being said, more money and publicity never hurt.”