HALIFAX (CUP) -While women’s university sports teams have begun to command the same respect on the field as men’s teams, a recently released report from Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) shows they are still far from catching up to their male counterparts in terms of funding opportunities. According to the data, Canadian schools provided over $4.3 million in awards to student athletes in 2001-2002, with 67 per cent of these funds directed to male athletes.
Nova Scotia’s St. Francis Xavier University (St. F.X.) had the country’s third largest athlete awards budget. Almost 83 per cent of the school’s $260 000 in award money was granted to male athletes. Tom Kendall, St. F.X.’s director of athletics and recreation, admits the statistics do not paint a rosy picture of the opportunities for female athletes at his school.
“That looks horrible. I think it reflects the history in terms of how money has been raised and inherited in the past. The bursaries are very skewed. There are just not the number created for women’s sports as there have been for men’s sports,” he said.
Kendall points to alumni support for the university’s football team and championship wins for the men’ basketball team as contributing factors to the success of men’s athletic fundraising. Although contributions from the university itself are roughly equal for men’s and women’s teams, Kendall believes that a female sports dynasty would help in ensuring public financial support for women’s clubs.
“I know for a fact it would help. It’s just like everything else. People want to see a winner,” he said.
This is a sentiment shared by Kathy Mullane, Interim Athletics Director at Halifax’s St. Mary’s University. Mullane believes that winning records aside, creating and supporting women’s sports teams is the best way to close the athletic gender gap.
“All the new teams we have added since I’ve been here have been women’s teams. By adding women’s hockey and rugby we’ve achieved gender equity in the number of men and women athletes. We have more women’s teams than men’s,” she said.
For her part, CIS CEO Marg McGregor confirms that university support for teams cannot be measured by the bottom line alone.
“Awards represent a small portion of the support Canadian universities contribute to student-athletes,” she said. “Universities in Canada make a staggering contribution to the sport system and to student-athletes through facility development, coach employment, running competitive leagues and programs and hosting high performance events and camps.”
While universities are motivated to tackle the gender gap in athletes awards on their own, CIS has designated 2005-2006 as the target by which they’d like to see a nationwide parity in monies given to male and female athletes. For his part, Kendall concedes the target date may be optimistic, but he’s confident that St. F.X. will achieve award parity in the near future.