To mark the start of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, I’m taking a look at the struggle for gender equality in sports.
The Olympic Games are renowned for celebrating diversity, and promoting mutual respect amongst different cultures. Indeed, the Games are a fantastic showcase for peaceful rivalry amongst nations through sports competitions. This year’s Olympic Games are particularly spectacular because they’re the first to include a team of refugees to show solidarity with the millions of people who have fled their countries in search of protection.
However, the Olympic Games should also highlight the vast gender inequalities that are still present within sports.
Women weren’t allowed to compete at the first Olympics in 1896, and the 2012 Olympics marked the first Games ever in which every country sent female athletes to compete.
I’m not branding the Olympics as intentionally sexist. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is actively pushing for women’s and girls’ empowerment through sports, and share experiences of the ‘One Win Leads to Another’ programme in Brazil.
However, I am trying to use the Olympic Games as a platform to spark discussion about the eminent struggle for gender equality in sport.
For instance, did you know that:
1) The majority of female athletes are underpaid compared to their male counterparts.
A 2014 BBC Sport study into prize money found 30% of sports reward men more highly than women.
Moreover, female footballers are rewarded significantly less than their male counterparts. For winning this year’s World Cup in Brazil, the male German team received more than £21m- which was much more than the female Japanese team after they were crowned world champions in 2011.
2) Compared to men’s sport, women’s sport tends to get much less media coverage, as sport is largely dominated by male role models. This goes hand in hand with the challenge faced by female athletes in securing sponsors. Of the total UK sports sponsorship market, women’s sport receives only 0.5%.
3) There are studies that argue that significant differences exist in the quality of technical production of certain women’s sporting matches (such as football and basketball). They claim that the quality of production, camera work, editing and commentary in men’s games are superior to that of women’s games. Consequently, women’s sports appear to be less exciting than men’s, and receive less media coverage and a smaller following.
This is important because television is a powerful medium; it shapes and reflects the attitudes of our society. Therefore, the way in which television covers (or fails to cover) women in sports, affects the way in which female athletes are perceived. This also tells us something about the status of women in our society.
Thus, improving the media coverage of women’s sports would go a long way in positively changing gender relations in our society.
So what can you do?
Happy watching! And as always, #GirlPower.
Written by: Beatriz Amaral