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Women deserve better in sports, but how? Believe, empower — and succeed

Monday afternoon, the University of Arizona held a Women’s Leadership and Empowerment Luncheon with the Wildcats Head Coach Adia Barnes as its special guest. Check out what she had to say on bridging the gap on coverage of female athletes.

Tommy Lynn Calhoun

Tuscon, AZ — Question: Only 4% of female athletes receive media attention; How can we change that?

Answer: “Connecting with other women.”- Adia Barnes, University of Arizona Women's Basketball Head Coach

It was reported in 2015 by the University of Minnesota’s Tucker Center that 40% of all athletes nationwide are women, but women as a whole only receive 4% of media coverage in athletics. How can we as athletes and viewers change that? What impact can showing more women in sport have?

And how much of an influence can players and coaches have off the court?

The University of Arizona has taken a step forward with the importance of women empowerment for their athletes and staff by opening the discussion and encouraging women’s leadership on Arizona’s campus.

Head Coach Adia Barnes was a guest speaker at an event co-sponsored by the Arizona commission and the Arizona Office for Diversity and Inclusive Excellence. Coach Barnes discussed the key roles we all play in society’s growth in recognizing women for equal achievement and to inspire more women to have self-belief in taking action for leadership roles.

When asked “How would you like to see your own athletes highlighted [in the media]”, Coach Barnes replied with an honest but reflective tone.

“I would like to see my athletes highlighted more as who they are as people... In women’s basketball, there’s a certain perception, there’s a certain image you see on the court with the way someone (can) look, or how they carry themselves that isn’t necessarily them.”

This message is true; it’s not enough to be good. We see female athletes have their femininity questioned daily if they participate in a certain sport, wear a specific hairstyle or even if they have ‘too much’ muscular development because they are not actually allowed to look like athletes...right?

The luncheon, held at the University of Arizona, discussed how we have more of the Michelle Obama’s and the Ellen DeGeneres’s in our generations. That they have the ability to succeed. However, women today feel as if they lack the belief that they can’t succeed. We often feel more confident in pursuing a goal if someone we can relate to has attained it first.

Tommy Lynn Calhoun

Seeing women in the media and more in their field of sport/occupation gives the youth more opportunities to see what they can be in the future or learn another way to boost their peer's aspirations.

Coach Barnes called upon the attendees to quite literally ‘speak out’ by handing a microphone to various members in the audience to volunteer their input on what they would like to do with their own goals, and how we can support other females achieving success.

Seems risky, right? Discussing a goal out loud as a female? But if we don’t take risks, we as a whole will never reach the next level. The message of this conference was clear: You can’t succeed if you don’t believe, but we can succeed by connecting and assuring our peers.

The Economist Magazine called female economic empowerment the most profound social change of our times and with the “me too” movement - supported by Oprah’s Golden Globe speech.

We know that our time to support more women and girls in athletics, politics, military, and in the arts is now, and Arizona will not be left behind.

On Friday, Jan. 19, the University of Arizona women’s basketball team will partner up with the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) as they host the Colorado Buffaloes at the McKale Center. The game will serve as a first for RISE and Arizona, as they will be the first to host a “Unity”-themed game.

The unity theme will be a central part of the entire day, with programming; a campus conversation with student-athletes, community and university leaders, and law enforcement; giveaways; and RISE’s signature “It Takes All Colors” digital fan photo experience.