With female representation in the National Football League being scarce, a few women are making strides to break those barriers.
According to the 2020 NFL Race and Gender Report Card, the league’s staff is made up of 35% women, compared to 2010 when 27% of the staff was made up of women. The female representation in the NFL is still sub-par, however it is making a slow yet progressive climb each year.
It has taken a long time for America’s most popular sport to expand positions from only men to both men and women, as well as further diversifying it to recognize people of color. Not only is this a victory for women, it is a victory for women of color especially. Ultimately, in 2021, this should not be a surprise or shocking event, women should be hired in more visible on-field positions.
In 2015, Sarah Thomas became the first female to be hired as a full-time NFL official. Six years later, Maia Chaka, the latest up-and-coming woman in the NFL, became the first Black woman to work as a NFL referee during the Jets-Panthers game Sept. 12.
According to the NFL, Chaka started working with the Officiating Development Program in 2014. She put a lot of hard work into moving up from officiating college games to eventually working professional games. Chaka is making history by normalizing women on the football field. With her imprint along with many others, she is shifting the gender view on football in America.
Chaka’s revolutionary impact does not only cater to women but people of color as well. According to the 2021 NFL Diversity and Inclusion Report, as of February 2021, there are five head coaches of color that lead NFL teams compared to the 27 white NFL head coaches.
Clearly racial diversity within staff in the NFL still seems to be low, but with Chaka’s historical movement, it gives the NFL an opportunity to diversify its staff.
According to the NFL, 12 coaching positions are occupied by women this year. With the average of about 15 coaches per team and there being 32 teams in the league, the female image in the NFL does not appear to be prominent. Though the women who are staffed are making a big imprint in a predominantly male centered sport.
According to the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, there are 187.3 million fans that watch football, and 47% are women. With women being almost half of the NFL’s viewership, the staff should be the same as well. The progressive movement of women weaving themselves into the league not only squashes gender inequality but it also shows younger girls that they can do anything they set their mind to, even if society tells them not to.
Hopefully in the future the opportunity for women to take higher positions will expand and the gender balance in the NFL will even out.