The history of female involvement in college sports has long been characterized by exclusion, both as athletes and as full participants with equal access to the advantages that athletics can provide. For many years, male athletes have received greater financial support, more media exposure, a stronger voice to develop their image, and a better platform to turn their athletic achievements into off-field opportunities.
With the developments of NIL for female athletes over the past couple of years, all of that has changed.
With the NCAA’s decision to surrender control over athletes’ names, images, and likenesses (NIL) in 2020, women in college sports are taking advantage of these new rights and discovering new professional possibilities, giving them the chance to make a larger impact in their communities and the nation. While Title IX ensured women’s access to participate in sports, NIL may prove to be the turning point when women take the megaphone given to them as athletes and use it to bring about change and grow their sports. Women’s voices are now being heard like never before.
“Every woman in the NCAA now has a platform and the ability to share their story,” says Shannon Scovel, a University of Maryland doctoral candidate studying the representation of women in sports and digital media.
Brands are taking note. In the most recent March Madness basketball season, four out of the top five NIL earners were women. As of May 2022, female basketball players ranked third in NIL earnings among all NCAA sports, followed only by football and men’s basketball players. Women’s volleyball, softball, and swimming and diving came next in the list of top earners, ranking ahead of baseball, the third-highest earning men’s sport.
These numbers contrast sharply with the unequal treatment women athletes have received in college sports, where 80-90% of athletic departments fail to comply with Title IX, the 1972 civil rights law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in schools or educational programs receiving federal funding. According to the NCAA’s most recent financial reporting, Division I women’s athletic programs at Football Bowl Subdivision schools receive only 18% of total operating expenses, 29% of total recruiting dollars, and 41% of total scholarship allocations, resulting in a yearly shortfall of $973 million in scholarships and $163 million in recruiting money for female athletes.
Traditional media coverage of women’s sports is similarly biased. Despite a decrease in overt sexism and denigration of female athletes over time, gender studies scholars Cheryl Cooky, Michael Messner, and Michela Musto have found that the coverage remains “lackluster and uninspired.” In 2019, women’s sports accounted for just 5.1% of overall sports coverage on SportsCenter and in the Los Angeles television market, a slight increase from 5% in 1989.
According to Scovel, “The underrepresentation of women in traditional media leads to the public and businesses underestimating and undervaluing women.”
NIL legislation has helped to close this gap by creating new opportunities for female athletes to earn money and recognition. For example, female athletes have been able to use their NIL rights to secure endorsement deals and sponsorships that were previously unavailable to them. This has helped to increase their visibility and create new opportunities for female athletes to earn money through their athletic abilities. Additionally, the NIL laws have allowed female athletes to use their platform to advocate for important issues and to create new opportunities for female athletes to achieve their goals and dreams.
NIL is providing a way for women to bypass the traditional obstacles to exposure and its benefits. This is true for high-profile college athletes with large social media followings, like University of Miami’s twin basketball players Haley and Hanna Cavinder, and Louisiana State University gymnast Olivia Dunne. But it is also true for less well-known athletes, such as Aquinas College volleyball player Chloe Mitchell, who has gained TikTok fame and NIL deals for her creative DIY home renovation content, allowing her to buy a computer and car, pay off her student loans.
Here are some more female athlete NIL success stories:
What’s something all of these female sports stars have in common? They’ve all made deals through Icon Source.
Paid endorsements have the potential to greatly impact the careers and financial stability of female college athletes. It is crucial for these female athletes to carefully consider the opportunities presented to them and weigh the benefits against any potential drawbacks. The importance of supporting and valuing female athletes cannot be overstated, and NIL endorsements can certainly play a role in achieving gender equality in sports. The future of female athletics is bright, and it is our hope that more and more female athletes will be able to receive the recognition and financial benefits they deserve through paid endorsements.In the meantime, we’ll continue to support and uplift female athletes through NIL as they strive for excellence on and off the field. Check out our marketplace where athletes and brands connect to make NIL partnerships a reality.