Women Athletes Ponder Goals

Among them: pro sports, more money, and more media attention

WHAT long-term goals should the women's sports community set?

This is the question some elite female athletes struggled with last week when the Women's Sports Foundation (WSF) met for its annual get-together.

The group, in its 20th year, started by discussing 20 goals for the next 20 years. The goals ranged from encouraging professional sports for women, to supporting ``the rights'' of girls and women to participate in every sport, including sports like wrestling and football. The ultimate use of the goals, says Donna Lopiano, executive director of the WSF, is to form an agenda for the foundation.

Lopiano says the top goals should be increased media coverage of women in sports and better representation of women on the United States Olympic Committee.

To back up their goals, the WSF is amassing facts. Take the issue of media coverage of women: A 1994 survey by the Amateur Athletic Foundation (AAF), a sports-research organization, found that 94 percent of the sports coverage on local TV news is devoted to men's sports, while women's sports receive 5 percent (1 percent is gender-neutral).

Magazines are not much better. When women make the cover of sports magazines and newspapers, it is either to model swimsuits or to illustrate some tragedy. In USA Today, the Dallas Morning News, the Boston Globe, and the Orange County (Calif.) Register, the AAF survey found stories on men's sports outnumbered those on women's sports by 23 to 1.

THERE are scores of statistics to illustrate the WSF's unhappiness over female representation at the USOC. There are only 18 women on the USOC's 100-member board of directors, and only 21 percent of the executive committee is female. Women constitute only 9 percent of the national governing bodies of national teams.

Nancy Hogshead, the current president of the WSF and a three-time Olympic gold medalist, says the women's sports movement should also focus on gender equity in schools. For example, a 1992 National Collegiate Athletic Association study found that female college athletes receive less than 24 percent of athletic departments' operating dollars, less than 18 percent of the recruiting money, and less than 33 percent of the scholarship aid. This, despite the fact that women represent 53 percent of the college undergraduate population.

``The message this is sending to young girls is, `See how much money and opportunity boys get? You are really not that impor-tant,' '' Hogshead says.

The WSF conference convened a panel of such elite athletes as Bonnie Blair, Billie Jean King, and Jackie Joyner-Kersee. The sportswomen discussed everything from their need for more sponsorship money to the struggle for racial equality. As a result of the comments, the WSF now plans to rewrite some of the goals to ready them for National Girls and Women Sports Day on Feb. 2.

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