Raising the bar on International Women’s Day

March 8, 2024
On the field, in the broadcast booth, at the bargaining table — here’s to the women who are changing the game.
Sports NewsGeneral
Raising the bar on International Women’s Day
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💪 Put ’em in, coach

Historic hires, massive contracts, and shattered records. Wherever these female coaches lead, we’ll gladly follow.

🏈 NFL: The 2023 NFL season featured 10 women in full-time coaching positions, a league record and the most there’s ever been in any professional men’s league.

⚾️ MLB: MLB also saw increased representation, with at least 11 women working as on-field coaches in major and minor league clubs in 2022. And just last fall, San Francisco Giants assistant coach Alyssa Nakken interviewed for the team’s vacant managerial position, the first woman to do so at this level. You know what they say about diamonds.

🏀 WNBA: The 2023 WNBA Finals saw two-former-W-players-turned-head-coaches (HC) square off for the first time ever when the Las Vegas Aces’ Becky Hammon and NY Liberty’s Sandy Brondello led their respective superteams to the championship series.

  • Former players taking the helm might just be the new W trend, as they’ve accounted for half of the league’s 12 HC positions in each of the last two seasons. Love to see it.

📺 Setting new attendance and viewership records

Raising the bar on International Women’s Day
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Numbers never lie — more people are watching women’s sports in-person and on TV than ever before.

🏀 WNBA: An average of 627K viewers tuned into regular-season games on ABC last year, making it the league’s highest-viewed regular season on the network in 11 years. The Aces’ championship-clinching performance in the 2023 Finals became the most-watched Game 4 on record, with an average of 889K viewers, a 124% increase from Game 4 in 2022.

🎓🏀 NCAA basketball: The 2023 title game between Iowa and LSU pulled in a whopping 9.9M (!!!) viewers, making it the most-watched college basketball game on ESPN platforms, men’s or women’s, ever. And don’t be surprised if a new record is set this year.

⚽️ 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup: The final between England and Spain racked up 38.4M viewing hours in Britain, making it their most-watched women’s sports event of the year. WWC 2023 also set a new attendance record with nearly 2M fans watching in-person from Australia and New Zealand, including 75,784 folks who attended the final. Fan-footy-tastic.

🏒 PWHL: 2.9M Canadians tuned in to watch the league’s debut this year and since then, the all-time attendance record for a women’s pro hockey game has been broken three times, most recently during February’s “Battle on Bay Street” between Toronto and Montréal, which drew 19,285 raucous fans.

⚽️ NWSL: 817K viewers tuned in to see the NJ/NY Gotham FC beat the OL Reign and claim the 2023 NWSL title, the second most-watched NWSL match ever. With the league’s new and largest media rights deal for a women’s sports league taking flight next week, that number is sure to skyrocket.

🎓🏐 NCAA volleyball: In August 2023, Nebraska volleyball set the U.S. record for women’s sports attendance when 92,003 fans watched the five-time collegiate national champion Huskers beat Omaha. Fast forward to the national championship between Wisconsin and Nebraska, and 1.2M viewers tuned in, making it the most-watched college volleyball match on ESPN’s networks. A serve.

💰 Money, money, money

Raising the bar on International Women’s Day
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💵 Six female athletes made at least $10M in 2023 and the top 15 highest-paid raked in a collective $174.5M in prize money and endorsements. Seven of the top 10 play tennis — which comes as no surprise given the sport has long led the way in pay equity.

  • 2023 U.S. Open champion Coco Gauff topped the list for the first time, cashing in $22.7M, followed by fellow tennis star Iga Świątek ($21.9M) and 20-year-old skier Eileen Gu ($20M).

🎓 Name, image and likeness (NIL) deals — which allowed amateur athletes in the U.S. to cash in on endorsement deals for the first time beginning in July 2021 — have made a big mark, helping to level the playing field in college athletics.

⚽️ Amid the money moves wins, female footballers are still fighting for equality. The Canadian Soccer Players' Association, which represents the players of CanWNT, sued 15 current and former Canada Soccer board members for $40M last month, alleging financial negligence.

  • Since their labor agreement expired in 2021, the red and white had been negotiating a new deal and even played under protest at last year’s SheBelieves Cup.

➡️ The road ahead

Raising the bar on International Women’s Day
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While we take today to celebrate, we know the work is far from over. Women still receive approximately 5% of traditional sports media coverage and account for only about 14% of sports reporters (a primary reason we do what we do!).

  • Also alarming? Girls — especially Black girls — drop out of sports at a higher rate than boys. And these are only a handful of the issue areas that need to be tackled.

Another huge concern are the attacks on the trans sports community, specifically trans girls and women. Twenty-four states have now passed laws barring transgender girls and women from competing in sports aligning with their gender identity.

  • Last year, the so-called “Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act” was reintroduced, which would implement a federal ban on transgender and intersex girls and women participating in sports if passed. Terrifying.

Clearly, there’s still much progress to be made. Let the incredible milestones and moments fuel us as we march on.