Women’s empowerment; what it is, and why we need it
Women’s empowerment through sports, as is the priority of WSC, has become a trending topic globally. International authorities including the World Bank and UN have agreed that the most effective way to fight poverty is to help young girls and women. Empowering women is the key to not only social transformation, but also economic growth and political stability.
In Korea, though the media emphasizes women excelling in professional fields, reports do not show the severe lack of female representatives and higher officials in the country. Last year, 48.2 percent of those who passed the Korean Civil Service Examination were women, a record high. This year, more than 70 percent of diplomat candidates were women, another record high. Currently, 7 percent more women in Korea attend college institutions than men.
Despite having the highest education rates for women in the world, according to the World Economic Forum, Korean women hit the glass-ceiling harder than women in other countries of similar economic stance. Regarding the WEF’s Gender Gap Index, Korea ranks just 117 out of 142 countries. Korean women, despite their top-notch education, are marginalized in political empowerment positions, legislator positions, senior officials, managerial positions in companies, and especially underrepresented in government positions.
Other analyses state similar results. In March, The Economist published the “Glass-ceiling index,” in which gender differences in higher education, wage, senior positions and more were evaluated. South Korea managed 25 points out of 100, trailing far behind the OECD average of 60, even behind Turkey and Japan, ranking 29th out of 29 OECD countries. With the largest wage difference within the countries of interest, and only 1.9 percent of women on company boards, Korea was labeled one of the worst countries to be a working woman.
According to the World Bank, empowerment is the process of increasing the capacity of people to make choices and transform those choices into actions and outcomes. It is having the security to speak one’s mind without having to look over one’s shoulder, or having the confidence to act upon one’s will without fear of judgement or bias consequences. In modern day Korea, it is also the right for women to compete with men on the same grounds, without an ingrained layer of gender specific discrimination.
Sports empowerment by the numbers; as seen from Title IX
In the United States of America, Title IX of the Education Amendments, requires all educational institutes receiving Federal financial assistance to give equal opportunities to both genders.
In 1972, just as Title IX came into action, one out of 27 girls played high school sports in America. Only 30,000 women were associated with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) sports, as opposed to 170,000 men. Now, some 40 years after the establishment of Title IX, more than 150,000 women participate in the NCAA, and more than 40 percent of teenage girls participate in high school varsity sports. Women receiving athletic scholarships from the NCAA rose from zero to over 200,000 in recent years.
In the United States, Title IX has not only been able to increase women’s sports participation rates, but has also impacted the nation’s social and economic stance for women.
Betsey Stevenson, an economist and Associate Professor at the University of Michigan, studied how the influx of sports in girls lives, due to Title IX, affected American girls in the long run. By categorizing the subjects by state, school size, social and individual differences and more, Dr. Stevenson brought forth an analysis focused solely on the direct relationship between high school sports participation and future achievement as an adult.
According to Dr. Stevenson’s indepth analysis, girls’ sports participation had a forthright relationship with women’s education and employment rates. In her study, she found that Title IX was responsible for about 20 percent of the increase in women’s education since the 70s, and 40 percent of the rise in employment for millennial women. Also, Dr. Stevenson reported that the states with greater growth in opportunities for women’s sports saw greater increases of women in male dominated occupations.
Even in her data comparing the immediate effects of Title IX, by comparing students who attended high school just before and after the new legislation, Dr. Stevenson was able to acquire positive results. She uncovered that sports participation in high school can be associated with 8 percent higher wages within the same skill level. Also, Title IX was associated with a 3 percent rise on women’s college attendance in just the couple of years.
In accord to Dr. Stevenson’s research, a report by the EY Women’s Athletes Business Network and espnW found female executives to be more likely to have played sports compared to those in non-leadership roles. Their statement, proven in their report “Making the connection: women, sport and leadership” was conducted across Europe, the Americas and Asia-pacific, analyzing the sports participation of 400 female executives. A remarkable 94 percent of the women surveyed had participated in sports at some point of their lives, and 74 percent believed that playing sports could accelerate a woman’s leadership and career potential.
“Girls who participate in sports programs are able to experience both failure and achievement during the process of attaining one’s goal,” said Professor Park Ji-young, a researcher at the Korean School Sports League Center at Ewha. She explained how leadership skills can be attained through participation in physical activities. “Through shared wins and losses, these girls learn sympathy, cooperation and communication, and they are able to practice goal setting. These life skills naturally integrate, and when the girls are faced with a problem, or injustice, they are induced to use these skills to problem solve as a passionte leader,” she said.
Women’s empowerment; what it is, and why we need it