Women's Athletics

Tennis player

Leadership On and Off the Field

A growing body of research shows participation in sports benefits girls and women in ways that extend far beyond the playing field, just as it does for boys and men. Student athletes learn valuable life skills that can help them succeed in school and beyond.

According to the United Nations, when girls participate in sports they are more likely to attend school and participate in society. When women and girls can walk on the playing field, they are more likely to step into the classroom, the boardroom, and step out as leaders in society.

- U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs

Research by economist Betsey Stevenson found that increasing girls’ participation in sports had a direct effect on women’s education and employment. In 2010, she reported that changes spurred by Title IX explained about 20 percent of the increase in women’s education and about 40 percent of the rise in employment for 25-to-34-year-old women. 

The Women’s Sports Foundation founded by Billie Jean King reports:

  • High school girls who play sports are less likely to be involved in an unintended pregnancy; more likely to get better grades in school and more likely to graduate than girls who do not play sports.
  • Girls and women who play sports have higher levels of confidence and self-esteem and lower levels of depression. 
  • Girls and women who play sports have a more positive body image and experience higher states of psychological well-being than girls and women who do not play sports.
  • 80% of the female executives at Fortune 500 companies identified themselves as former “tomboys”—having played sports.

To benefit from athletics, girls and women must have opportunities to participate. But those opportunities vary widely.

"Our nation’s schools remain highly segregated along racial and economic lines, and schools with high concentrations of minority and low-income students have fewer resources for academic and extracurricular activities. Opportunities to play sports, which provide valuable benefits, are diminished for all students at these schools, but are particularly limited for girls."

Finishing Last: Girls of Color and School Sports Opportunities, Poverty & Race Research Action Council

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