California Park and Recreation Departments Fall Short on Gender Equity

New Report Shows Lack of Compliance with AB 2404 in Community Youth Athletics
Sara Feldman
Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center
Sheilagh Polk
Coaching Corps
Jane H. Adams
California Park & Recreation Society
November 19, 2013
San Francisco, CA.

In the newly released California Park and Recreation Gender Equity in Community Sports Report, Fair Play for Girls in Sports (a project of the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center), Coaching Corps, and the California Park & Recreation Society (CPRS), found that California park and recreation departments generally perceive that community youth sports are gender equitable, yet nearly half of the state’s departments are not tracking participants’ gender in programming.  Nonetheless, park and recreation departments are open to receiving training so they may achieve gender equity under the law. 

AB 2404, the first law of its kind in the country, mandates gender equity in community youth athletic programs.  For the first time since passage of the law in 2004, information is now available through the Report to measure how park and recreation departments are implementing the law. Preliminary findings indicate serious gaps remain in gender equity, leaving girls without the same access to athletic opportunities, facilities, and resources enjoyed by boys.

Specifically, the report shows that, while park and recreation staff generally believe that equity exists between boys and girls in sports programming, only 51.9% of respondents report that their department tracks participant gender in their youth sport programs, a key mechanism for ensuring equality. Additionally, very few respondents (less than 12%) reported receiving any training on AB 2404, despite the law being in effect for almost a decade.  Both tracking and training are necessary for compliance with the law—essential first steps toward ensuring gender equity in community athletic programs.  

Girls who play sports are more likely to graduate from high school and college, live healthier lives, develop leadership skills, and succeed in the workplace. This is particularly true for low-income girls who may not have access to school teams and private club sports.  Given these known benefits, girls need sports opportunities in their neighborhood park and recreation departments.  

While great strides have been made in school athletic programs through Title IX (the federal law requiring gender equity in public education and athletics), local park and recreation departments still have considerable work to do to ensure equal access.  


Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center
LAS-ELC, founded in 1916, protects the rights and economic self-sufficiency of working poor people by providing a wide range of free legal services and by engaging in policy advocacy, public education, and technical assistance on behalf of low-income workers and their communities.  LAS-ELC addresses the full spectrum of employment-related issues for our clients, such as unpaid wages; denial of family and medical leave; denial of disability accommodations; and discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, immigration status, language, gender, sexual orientation, or disability.

Fair Play for Girls in Sports, a project of LAS-ELC, promotes the health, well-being, education, and future employment opportunities of girls in grades K–12 by ensuring sports programs provided by public schools and park and recreation departments afford girls equal athletic opportunities as required by Title IX and California state law AB 2404. For more information please visit Fair Play for Girls in Sports.

Coaching Corps
Coaching Corps is a non-profit organization that levels the playing field for kids in low-income communities, giving them access to supportive and well-trained volunteer coaches and involvement in team sports to inspire healthy growth and development. For more information, visit

California Park & Recreation Society (CPRS)
The California Park & Recreation Society is a non-profit organization that provides education, networking, resources and serves as the public advocate for California park and recreation professionals. CPRS members are local, state, and national parks and recreation professionals. For more information, visit

Lauren Rauscher, Ph.D.
Lauren Rauscher, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Social Sciences at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh. Her research is anchored in the experiences of women and girls, exploring how gender intersects with race and class to form patterns of inequality and privilege in the domains of health, positive youth development, work and the U.S. labor market, and education. She is also one of the founding board members of Girls on the Run of Los Angeles County, where she combined her passion for social justice, physical activity, and community building.