In the past 30 years, Title IX has afforded millions of girls the opportunity to participate in athletics. In 1972, 1 in 28 girls participated in high school athletics. The idea of a college scholarship to continue playing sports was unheard of, and the possibility of having a professional career was perhaps only dreamed about. Today, 1 in 2.5 girls participate in high school athletics, $180 million is awarded to female athletes to play at the collegiate level, and there are a variety of established professional women's leagues. Girls and women can now more than dream of making a career of playing sports. During the 30th anniversary year of Title IX, the Women's Sports Foundation celebrates the achievements of countless female athletes but also examines the inequalities that remain.
In 1996, the Women's Sports Foundation paired with Evian Natural Spring Water to closely investigate the comparative earnings, exclusive of endorsements, of male and female professional athletes in the first Women's Sports Foundation/Evian Athletes' Earnings Gap Index. The chief finding was that significant inequality exists in prize money available to male and female athletes across many sports (See Tables 1 and 2).
In the first study, we compared the total prize purses available to men and women as well as the average earnings of the top 10 male and female athletes in five sports - beach volleyball, bowling, downhill skiing, golf and tennis. The average prize earnings of the top ten male athletes were double that of females in tennis, meaning that for every $1.00 a man earned, a woman earned $.49 (1: .49), followed by bowling (1: .46), skiing (1:. 30), and beach volleyball (1: .20) (See Figure 1). The study also found that the 1995-1996 average salary of male NBA players, $1.7 million, was 24 times greater than the average salary of female players, $70,000 in the newly formed American Basketball League (1996-1997 season).
The second study, conducted from 1996-2000, revealed...