Kane, second from left, with some of her colleagues. Photo by Rebecca Slater

Leveling the playing field

Ensuring the future work of the Tucker Center

Last July, millions of television viewers saw the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team win the World Cup title. These strong ratings validated what Professor Mary Jo Kane has studied for decades: people want to watch and attend women’s sports if players are characterized as skilled athletes versus sex objects.

Mary Jo Kane’s, father, Ed, was a printer, and designed his own Christmas cards. This one features children Janie, Mary Jo, John, and David. Photo courtesy of Kane family
The Kane children all grown up. Photo courtesy of Kane family

Kane is director emerita of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport, which she founded in 1993. A self-described “classic pre-Title IX tomboy,” she united her interests in social patterns and gender equity to build a career researching, teaching, and advocating for how sport impacts the lives of girls and women.

The Tucker Center developed out of Kane’s vision to take seriously the empirical analysis of females’ involvement in physical activity. Thanks to her efforts, the Center—the first of its kind—has become the preeminent resource for those who support and care about girls’ and women’s ability to have safe and fair access to sports in a variety of venues.

While the field is no longer as marginalized as it was, inequities persist. Media portrayals of women, which is Kane’s expertise, have moved toward treating female athletes with the same respect granted to men, but the extent and tone of coverage still differs. Issues such as equal pay, women’s representation in leadership positions, and sexual abuse continue to be essential areas of study.

To help ensure the future work of the Tucker Center, Kane committed an estate gift to provide flexible funding for the directorship. The David and Janie Kane Endowed Tucker Center Director Fund both honors her legacy and pays tribute to her late siblings David and Janie. Every member of the Kane family loved sports, respected success, and believed in giving back. “David and Janie are ever present in my life,” says Mary Jo. “They were incredibly proud of my accomplishments and the Tucker Center reflects their passions. This gift is a way to carry forward our family name.”

Winter 2020