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The Gender Equality Debate; A Boost for Women in Sport

Lahnee Pavlovich
Head of Research and Writing

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I am a big believer in gender equality and passionate about equal rights, equal pay and equal recognition, not only when it comes to our female athletes, but for women in general.

I have a very young daughter and I hope that one day she will love sports as much as I do. She will certainly be encouraged to play, learn and get involved in a variety of sports as a kid. And if she chooses to take sport further one day, like most parents, I hope that she will have the same opportunities as her male counterparts.

Gender equality in sports has always been a controversial topic. Even the founder of the modern Olympics, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, said in 1896, “No matter how toughened a sportswoman may be, her organism is not cut out to sustain certain shocks.”

“Focus, determination, pain, disappointment, excitement, suspense, anger, relief: it’s all a part of the game whether you are a man or a woman,”

Annie Spewak, former lacrosse player and junior at Robert Morris University studying Public Relations.

Although gender equality has come a long way, including UNESCO recognizing sports and physical activity as a human right in 1978, it still hasn’t come far enough.

Gender Equality – the stats!

In America 40% of sportspeople are women, however only 6-8% of the total sports media coverage is devoted to them. And women-only sports stories add up to just 3.5%of all sports stories in the four major US newspapers.

According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, male athletes get $179 million more in athletic scholarships each year than females do. Additionally, collegiate institutions spend just 24% of their athletic operating budgets on female sports, as well as just 16% of recruiting budgets and 33% of scholarship budgets on female athletes.

Some people have the argument that “women’s sport isn’t interesting enough”. And even though over the years the popularity of women’s sports is growing, unfortunately the media coverage and sponsorship dollars haven’t necessarily followed through and gender equality remains an issue.

Take last July’s Women’s World Cup soccer final for example. It was the most watched soccer match—men’s or women’s—EVER in the US with nearly 25.4 million viewers. Yet the players were far less compensated than their male counterparts.

“We are the best in the world, have three World Cup championships, four Olympic championships, and the men get paid more to just show up than we get paid to win major championships,”
Hope Solo, American Goalkeeper.
The gender equality debate was reignited recently when former South African tennis professional Raymond Moore made a number of comments that were degrading to women in the sport. This was met with backlash from both female and male players including World Number 1 Serena Williams who was vocal in expressing her views on the subject.

What it boils down to is that we, collectively, men and women, need to do more about gender equality. We need to pave the way for or daughters, just as we do our sons. There should be no disparity in sports, nor in the workplace, nor in life. Women and men should be seen as, and treated as, equals in all respects. Gender should not be the thing that defines us or separates us from our fellow athletes. [Read about how female former-student-athletes are blitzing the competition here]

Let’s show our daughters that they can be whatever they want to be, and get paid well for it too!

Fast Facts:

  • 70% of sports now offer the same amount of prize money for men and women. But in the 30% that don’t, the difference runs into the millions.
  • There are 2million more men than women taking part in sport at least once per week.
  • 0.4% of the total commercial investment in sport goes into women’s sport.
  • Only half of the governing bodies in sport currently meet the government target to have women making up one quarter of the people sitting around the boardroom table.
  • Men’s professional soccer clubs in Europe are the world’s wealthiest sports entities and at least 10 European soccer players earn more than $14 million per year.
  • When it comes to women, tennis is by far the most lucrative sport for female athletes.
  • Coaches in women’s team sports at college level earn 63 cents for every dollar earned by head Coaches of men’s teams.

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29 thoughts on “The Gender Equality Debate; A Boost for Women in Sport”

  1. thank you so much, i am a girl who has a desire to become a womens soccer player one day. this gave me confidence, and i will feed on all the bad things people say about womens rights, and sports.

  2. Thank you so much,I am a young woman and I want to be a tennis player like Venus Williams she is my idol and this article gave me confidence so again thank you

  3. I love it, equal play = equal pay .. right?
    Just like Ms Spewak stated “focus, determination..excitement, suspense.. it’s all part of the game”. Female athletes put just as much effort and make just as many sacrifices as the men in sport. It is crazy that people still have the attitude that women’s sport isn’t interesting enough! What make a men’s game so exciting that women cant deliver? I think this attitude towards women’s would change if they saw the Women’s World Cup grand final this year or the recent Matilda’s verse Brazil game. Whilst the media coverage for these events weren’t enormous, the crowds were there to support these girls!

    If we want to see our daughters and granddaughters take part in sport, the gender equality in sport needs to be evened out. therefore, it’s time we even out the playing field.


  4. jaslyn johnson

    i understand what everyone is saying cause gender eaqulity-am i right its just so unfair. we all should be eaqul .

  5. I wondering with all this talk of equality in sport, does this end with no male / female sport. Will there be just open tennis, or Olympic events where the strongest, fastest, the most skillful win no matter what gender they are.

    1. That’s an interesting point, Jack! I guess we will have to wait and see what the future holds…

  6. Javairya Yaseen

    @Jack Ellis or it could end up with the equal opportunities and facilities for female athletes.

  7. Nav_Boisteruos

    Guys Equality is a different issue. This is a scenario where we are supposed to talk about Equity. The sports should become more equitable so that even if women are playing alongside with men, the outcomes should not favor either one of the two.

  8. thx this helped a lot im doing a report in class and this artical gave me a lot of facts thank you so much

  9. Martin Hylland

    Does anybody know of any Projects that are in Place that aim to increase the involvement of women at management or coaching Level in sports in Europe?

  10. If you have any understanding of economics, you will see that this article is severely flawed. What an athlete is paid (male or female) has a direct correlation to how popular the sport is. If there is a high market demand for a product (e.g. NFL or Premier League Football) then these sports will generate an enormous amount of revenue. The higher a revenue a sport makes, then the higher the wages an athlete will receive. The market interest directly translates to the money paid to an athlete.

    For example, you can be the very best in the world in a multitude of sports or disciplines that have low public interest (e.g. hang gliding, canoeing, bmx riding) . These activities are undoubtedly skilled and impressive, but again the market interest will determine how much these people are paid. This is just fact. An world class football player who generates the interest of 50 million people will be paid more than a world class rock climber who generates the interest of 10,000 people. This is true no matter what gender you are.

  11. debbie dunder

    I posted my well thought out and researched comment, but its not viewable, really gets the noggin joggin. why would it just disappear?

    So il try again.

    Yeah! this is so unfair #equaloutcomes #menaremean #gurlsrunthewurlds


  12. @Aliv Lojico
    You are right. There is a correlation with how popular a sport is and the salaries of it’s athletes. However, this popularity comes from the amount of money invested into the sport as well. Take the SuperBowl for example : A ton of people tune in if only for the halftime show. The game’s popularity comes from how much money, time and coverage is invested into it. And how much is invested into it comes from it’s popularity. It is a vicious circle. This also goes for the level at which the athletes play. The quality of the game is often brought up as a reason that women sports have less support. But if we aren’t giving them the support they need then they cannot improve at the same pace. If the best coaches are always going for the higher salaries and the better coverage, then women athletes will never really be developing to their full potential.

  13. Ian zanotelli

    Same as above but I noticed a pattern I have only seen women’s in inequality articles written by women that if I may say is very intriguing

  14. I dream on becoming a female Basketball Player, but someone in my family says that I shouldn’t because I will fell isolated with no family too help me because I want too move from Australia- America. I also got told that I won’t get paid enough! I find it OUTRAGEOUS!!! I’m in Year 6 going into Year 7 at the same school and for years boys don’t pass me the Basketball- or any ball a lot because they are afraid that I am better than them. But not too brag I am kind of better than mostly all of them. I am doing a project about the WNBA and the respect all female athletes should receive and I would like too add some of your opinions. I won’t say your names of course, but I won’t take credit for it at all.

    1. Hi Aimee
      You are more than welcome to use any of our content, as long as you reference it to us.
      My best

  15. If you want to talk about inequality in sport then look into the current decision by Netball’s international federation to not recognize or support men’s netball at an international level! How would that be treated by feminism if the shoe was on the other foot and women were excluded from participating in what may be deemed a ‘male sport’ such as Rugby?

    Inequality is a joke… It seems that she who screams loudest gets the media attention.

  16. Having women’s sports versions of any sport isn’t equal. If you want equality women will have to compete alongside men in the same events. Imagine if we had separate sporting events for tall and short people just because the short people were disadvantaged and less likely to win? I doubt ‘short’s sport’ would draw as much interest. Same could be said for any area where people have a natural advantage: Blacks and whites could compete separately – imagine the reaction to that! But it is true. Black people have a natural advantage in some sports and white people in others but everyone is happier if they all just compete together and do their best – that is real equality!

  17. That was a great article. Right know I am doing a exhibition Project about gender equality in sport and this will be a lot of help

  18. The article was great but the comments alone where fantastic with some great topics that needed to be brought up if we’re talking about gender equality as both come hand in hand.

  19. More women need to watch sports. Generally many more men than women watch sports and being passionate about it. If more women are passionate about watching sports then their sports will grow bigger. In some sports like football and NFL and Rugby physical strength is key and women will never match the intensity and attraction of the male versions.

    To make a living in sports it’s not just playing for your country. England football players actually donate theie allowance playing for their country to charity. They are paid huge amounts to play for their clubs.

    How do you argue that women sports are just as interesting to watch when they play in a privileged women only competition and when not many women themselves watch women sports compared to men?

  20. Missing the point? Ideally there is only the sport, male female together the quickest, the longest, highest scoring etc. Quotes, sexual equality issues, affirmative action only serve as distractions and won’t level-the-playing-field. Play, compete for the fun of it or groom for higher levels is fine, but professional and world sports champions are the best of the best.

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