Women and Gender Studies
College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Let Them Play/Get Paid - A Panel Discussing Inequalities Surrounding Women in Sports


On February 7th, 2017, the week after National Girls and Women in Sports Day, “Let Them Play/Get Paid”, a panel discussing inequalities surrounding women in sports took place at Mason. The event was co-sponsored by African and African American Studies, Women and Gender Studies, Mason Athletics, XSport Fitness, and Title Club Boxing.

Lachina Robinson moderated the event. She is a basketball analyst for the Atlanta Dream of the WNBA, for select WNBA, ESPN, and NBATV games, and for ESPN, Fox Sports 1, and FS South college basketball games. The event panelists included Tajama Abraham Ngongba, Melissa Washington, Earl Smith, and Jill Morley. Tajama Abraham Ngongba is an assistant basketball coach at GMU, where she has been on the coaching staff for four years. Melissa Washington played for the the D.C. Divas professional women’s football team. She is communications professional and athlete, graduating from Wake Forest University with full funding through a Women’s Basketball scholarship. She played professional basketball in France, Spain, Italy and Romania in the European league. Earl Smith is a professor of Sociology and the Rubin Distinguished Professor of American ethnic studies, where he also serves as the program director, at Wake Forest University. He has authored numerous books, book chapters, and articles and teaches courses in sociology and sports management at Mason. Jill Morley is a writer, filmmaker, and fighter. She created the documentary “Fight Like a Girl”, which has received several awards, inspiring courage and educating others about empowering women thorough boxing.

The speakers outlined the benefits and challenges created by Title IX, part of the U.S. Education Amendments of 1972, which was created to promote gender equality in federally funded educational institutions. Title IX had considerable impact on women’s sports opportunities, including sports scholarships, greatly increasing the number of women who are able to participate in school sports. Although Title IX has allowed for more participation, it has not supported female athletes in a number of ways. In addition to the continuing gap in numbers of female and male athletes who participate in sports during school, women still receive fewer opportunities and scholarships than men during school, and Title IX did not increase the number of professional opportunities for women after college. Female professional athletes and coaches are still paid less than males (some must actually pay to play), prizes for female teams are smaller than for men’s teams, men get more networking opportunities due to greater revenue production, and it is much easier for men to become coaches (especially head coaches) of women’s teams than for women to coach men’s teams. Afterwards, the floor was open for Q & A from the audience. 

The leadership team wants to thank our panelists and all those who attended the event, making a success one. 

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