It’s been a long journey, but there’s still a way to go…
Traditionally sport has been dominated by men both in participation and in governance. Athletes often need to be strong, fast, competitive and combative and women are not encouraged to adopt these characteristics.
The father of the Olympics, Pierre de Coubertin, believed the inclusion of women would be “impractical, uninteresting, unaesthetic, and incorrect” and in 1900 2.2% of athletes at the games were women. Pierre de Coubertin could not have been more wrong and in 2016 45% of athletes were women. It seems that attitudes are changing and female sports have been taking off around the globe but why?
The “F” Word
Feminism: “The belief that men and women should have equal opportunities.” Sounds obvious? Apparently not…. Sport has huge potential to be a platform for realising feminist aims by empowering women and promoting equality. Sport has many benefits and can:
- Increase self-confidence
- Improve decision making and critical thinking
- Have both mental and physical health benefits
- Promote risk-taking
- Teach leadership and teamwork skills
These are all transferable skills that are useful in every walk of life. Sports organisations recognise that they have to promote women in sport, but they have met resistance.
- NBA players earn on average 96 times more than those in the WNBA.
- PL footballers earn on average 99 times more than WPL players.
- Top 20 men’s tennis players earned 16% more than top 20 women.
Short answer: Capitalism Long Answer: Sexist Capitalism.
Rafael Nadal: “If they sell more tickets than what we sell tickets, they deserve more than us. That’s very easy to understand.It’s not about being male or women. Doesn’t matter. We are the same. If they sell more than us, they have to win more than us.”
Novak Djokovic: “Women should fight for what they think they deserve and we should fight for what we think we deserve. As long as it’s like that and there is data and stats available upon who attracts more attention, spectators, who sells more tickets and stuff like that, in relation to that it has to be fairly distributed.”
Salaries are understandably linked to the money generated by the sport. However, I think Rafa and Novak have confused cause and effect. One of the most common sources of income for players is from media deals but UNESCO found that ONLY 4% of sports media content is dedicated to women’s sport. Perhaps that’s why there’s not as much interest in women’s sport? Maybe it’s time to take affirmative action to build the market:
Pay women more and more girls will view being an athlete as a viable career. This increase in participation will undoubtably improve quality and interest in the game, resulting in more money being generated by the sport.
In general there seems to be an apparent lack of interest and money in women sports so what are organisations doing to tackle this?
- The European Institute for Gender Equality was set up in 2007 to tackle gender imbalance and they have introduced policies and legislation to promote equality.
- In 2018 the FIFA statutes were amended to include a new objective in Art 2(f): “to promote the development of women’s football and the full participation of women at all levels of football governance.”
- Codes of practice have been introduced demanding more female participation.
- Awareness campaigns are often run to promote Women in Sport.
There seems to be huge potential in women’s sports and it’s crazy that it has taken this long to grow. Speaking of crazy… Show them what crazy can do!