Even Playing Field

Images provided by Prabhleen Kaur Lamba

Sports provide students with opportunities to learn and develop many different athletic skills. Sports also are an outlet for young people to express themselves. However, most female students do not get the same opportunities to participate in sports as males do.

This is one of the main issues that Prabhleen Lamba, a club basketball player and a Junior at WHS, has noticed. As a female athlete, she knows how beneficial sports can be for young women. “Knowing the value that sports has, such as learning important skills like teamwork and making new friends, I wanted all girls and women to be given an opportunity to participate in sports,” she says.

Frustrated with the gender inequalities in sports, Prabhleen decided to take action by writing a book titled “She Plays to Win.” In this book, she details the struggles and journeys of female athletes. The book also ventures into the fight for equal pay, respect, and equal opportunities for women athletes. Prabhleen discovered that many of the athletes she interviewed started their advocacy for gender equality in sports when they were in elementary school or younger. 

Prabhleen is just as passionate about the issue of gender equality in sports as the athletes she interviewed, and her hard work on her book earned her a spot as a 2021 SheBelieves Hero Finalist. This is a country-wide event, organized by U.S. Women’s National Team Olympic and World Cup veterans, that aims to raise awareness on the importance of gender equality in sports.

Many of the issues that Prabhleen covers in her book have recently been covered on national news outlets. Not only are there not equal opportunities for women to enter into sports, but once they do, there is an extreme lack of media coverage for women athletes. Many women are not represented in sports media because of their gender. In July 2020, NBA summer league games had much more mainstream media coverage than regular season WNBA games. Men’s sports stories dominate the top 10 sports news sites. Women’s sports in the USA account for just 4% of sports media reporting, according to the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport at the University of Minnesota. In a survey of televised sports broadcasts, ongoing since 1989, three LA-based facilities devoted on average only 3.2% of their sports reporting to women’s sports. 

There was also a recent scandal involving the women’s NCAA March Madness tournament. The men’s weight room was massive and had several machines and large weights to use, while the women’s weight room pales in comparison and lacked machinery and just had basic small weights.  This was a prime example on the discrimination of women athletes. However, there is hope. Recently, college softball is the 4th highest revenue generating sport in college. This is right behind men’s football, basketball, and baseball.  Women’s sports media coverage has also been growing steadily over the past few years, and all thanks to activists like Prabhleen Lamba.

Even when women’s sports do get covered, a number of studies have found that the focus is often on femininity and attractiveness, not athleticism. Additionally, in 2017, researchers highlighted what they call “gender-bland sexism.” That is when sports commentators downplay the accomplishments of female athletes and convey less excitement about big wins or milestones. Women athletes have been criticized by male athletes for being too feminine in sports that would be male dominated normally. This criticism is the main issue that Prabhleen is trying to solve. “I read a lot about the lack of media coverage and unequal pay in women’s sports,” she says. “This sends the wrong message to young girls and women; solving these problems is key in inspiring girls and women to be leaders in sports.” Women are just as capable to play at the top level in sports, and they should be given equal opportunities.

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