By Monique Hutson and Marija Petrovic
We call it the ‘trickle-ins.’ At the beginning of our game, it’s always quite empty and then, at the fourth quarter, people are getting ready for the boys’ game, and that’s when it starts to get packed.”
Keneca Pingue-Giles is an impressive basketball player. While playing for the Ryerson Rams this year, she has set career highs for all statistical categories. She was named an Ontario University Athletics (OUA) second-team all-star and helped the Ryerson Rams win a silver medal at the OUA Final Four championship. She had an average of 17.5 points per game during the regular season.
Despite the Rams’ women’s basketball team’s success, some say that there are disparities between the men’s and women’s teams at Ryerson — both on and off the court.
“When it comes to basketball, we play on the same days as the boys every single day. We play at 6 p.m. and they play at 8 p.m. So if you can advertise for the boys’ game, why can’t you advertise for the girls’ game?” says Pingue-Giles.
Pingue-Giles has experienced some of these disparities first-hand. But they can also be seen in other ways. There are differences in fan attendance, in the way women’s sports is marketed and in the way society views athleticism in women.
However, Ivan Joseph, the director of athletics at Ryerson, says, “From my point of view, we do a fairly decent job.” Since Joseph began working at Ryerson, he has made changes in the department to make it more equal for all teams, including the women’s.
When Joseph started at Ryerson, he says there were clear “operational issues and staffing issues.” One of the first decisions he made was to make the operational budgets equal for each of the men’s and women’s teams.
“I would say probably, if there is a disparity, it’s because of the marketing efforts,” says Joseph.
For years, the athletics department at Ryerson has been trying to figure out ways to get more students interested in attending games. At Ryerson, more students go to the men’s games than the women’s games.
“If you look at the men’s hockey team, we got 1,500 to 1,800 students that come to that game on Thursday night for the $3 beer/$1 soda,” says Joseph. “On the women’s hockey team, we got 200 or 300 students that will come.
“We’ve heard some students say it is because they don’t have $3 beer. But when we did $3 beer and $1 soda for (the women’s teams), we only had 150 or 200 people at the game. There was no increase.
“What I think has to happen is: teams need to win and when teams win, your population group will follow.”
President Sheldon Levy says that while he has seen advertisements on campus for men’s teams, he hasn’t seen any for the women’s teams.
“If you can advertise for men’s games, you should be able to advertise for women’s games,” Levy says. “The women’s basketball this year was phenomenal.”
This year, the women’s basketball team was winning almost as much as the men’s team. The women’s basketball team won 16 out of 19 regular season games while the men’s team won 17 of their 19 regular season games.
Pingue-Giles says when the women’s basketball team started winning, they didn’t see much of a difference in fan attendance. Although there was a bit of fan increase, they still saw mostly “trickle-ins” coming in at the end of their games.
Joseph says last year the athletics department tried to market each team equally for both men’s and women’s teams. They saw that no one team had better results in fan attendance. This year, they decided to pick two teams to market more heavily than other teams: the men’s basketball team and the men’s hockey team.
The athletics department chose the men’s basketball team because they knew in advance Ryerson was hosting the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) Final 8 championship. The men’s hockey team was chosen over the women’s hockey team because “the men’s hockey team had the outstanding national rankings of last year and they had a significantly larger following than the women’s hockey,” Joseph says.
“We promote excellence and that’s what guarantees you a spot up there (on banners across campus) to be recognized,” he says. “Until that occurs, you’re not going to get the exposure and the promotion that you may believe that you deserve.”
Operational budgets and marketing budgets for Ryerson’s athletics departments are kept private and confidential. Like the university’s budget, it’s not available to the public.
Pingue-Giles says “there is a discrepancy either way” in the marketing because the women’s basketball team has been achieving excellence and winning medals. She feels the women’s basketball team should be promoted just as much as men’s basketball team because they have similar achievements. She also believes that women in sports face a systemic problem.
“I think, in general, society would rather see boys play. Maybe they think it’s a faster pace, people are dunking and stuff like that, but I think girls can really offer a lot to the sport.”
Her teammate, Mariah Nunes, a fourth-year criminal justice student, agrees that society has always viewed female athletes as second-tier compared to men in sports.
“Even if they aren’t as successful, people still want to see men play,” Nunes says. “Even if a women’s team has a better record, the men still have more fans and more people coming out to games.”
Nunes, like Pingue-Giles, wants to see more than “trickle-ins” at their games. “We need a bigger fan base. We work just as hard, we travel, we have long days and we practise. I feel like our work sometimes goes unrecognized.
“I know that there is only so much funds that can be allocated, but I feel like they focus on men’s sports more,” Nunes says. She recognizes it can be difficult for Ryerson to promote each team equally, but she’d like to see a women’s team have just as much promotion and support from the community as the men’s basketball and hockey teams.
“I feel like women have the same athleticism and the same capabilities of men,” says Nunes. “In terms of advertisements, I think society sees (men being promoted) as a norm. It’s a male-dominated society in careers and in the sports world or whatever the case may be.
“I think advertisements are one way of progressing society to match the success of the male athlete (for women),” says Nunes. “Sports is just one small part of the big picture.”
However, Nunes feels that viewing and supporting women’s sports is on the rise. As society has become more aware of women’s issues and increasingly inclusive of women, so has the sentiment in the sports world.
The increase in the inclusivity of women in sports can also be seen on a national level. Sportsnet broadcast both the men’s and women’s CIS Final 8 final game. The viewership for the men’s game was 52,500 and the viewership for the women’s game was 37,500 — meaning the women’s game had a 28.57 per cent lower viewership than the men’s final game. The gap in viewership for an average women’s game at Ryerson and for a women’s game at a national level is almost 60 per cent.
Adika Peter-McNeilly is a third-year sociology student and plays on the men’s basketball team at Ryerson. He says students can support athletes of both genders by attending games.
“I think if we get more people out to the games, for both men and women, we (as athletes) would do a lot better,” Peter-McNeilly says.
Peter-McNeilly, Pingue-Giles and Nunes all agree that if more fans supported not only their teams, but other teams as well, it would give athletes more motivation to win. For women athletes, this could be a chance to be seen on advertisements across the Ryerson campus and, on a broader scale, across the city. It would mean more marketing for their team and more support and encouragement from the university.
It would be an extra step in closing the gap in disparities between men’s and women’s sports.