When we think about the history of women in sport, there are a few pivotal moments that stand out. For example, in 1971, Billie Jean King famously beat Bobby Riggs in the “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match. This was an important victory for women’s rights and helped to break down barriers that had been preventing them from competing in professional sports. In more recent years, there have been several high-profile examples of women athletes breaking through the glass ceiling and achieving unprecedented levels of success. However, despite these advances, there is still some way to go before women are treated equally to men in the world of sport. In this blog post, we will explore how attitudes towards women in sport have changed over time and look at some of the challenges that still remain.
Sponsorship is one area where women have made significant progress in recent years. According to a report by Nielsen, sponsorship of women’s sport has increased by 83% since 2010 and this is expected to rise even further in the years ahead. This is largely due to the fact that businesses are beginning to recognise the value of sponsorship as a marketing tool. In addition, social media has played a major role in promoting women’s sport, with organisations such as Women in Sport and SheIS working to increase visibility and encourage more girls and women to participate.
TV airtime is another area where women’s sport has recently made progress. A study by the University of Southern California found that, in the U.S., women’s sports accounted for just 30 minutes of airtime per day on network television in 2016, while men’s sports received more than three and a half hours. However, this is starting to change, with networks such as ESPN and NBC dedicating more airtime to women’s sport. For example, the 2017 Wimbledon Championships were broadcast on both ESPN and NBC, with a combined total of 45 hours of coverage. This is a major step forward and it is hoped that this trend will continue in the years ahead.
Despite these advances, there are still some areas where women’s sport is lagging. For example, in terms of sponsorship, men continue to receive more backing than women. A study by Forbes found that, in 2017, sponsorship of men’s sport was worth more than $600 million, while sponsorship of women’s sport was worth only $250 million. This is largely due to the perception that women’s sport is not as lucrative or exciting as men’s sport, however many female athletes are paid less than their male counterparts even when they generate the same level of revenue for the sport. The fact is that, in 2017, the top-earning female athlete in the world, Serena Williams, earned $27 million, while the top-earning male athlete, Lionel Messi, earned $111 million. This is a shocking and pretty disgraceful statistic, and highlights the need for more parity in the world of sport.
So, what can be done to further close the gender gap in sport? In short, there needs to be a concerted effort from everyone involved: athletes, coaches, sponsors, and the media, who control the narrative on how women are portrayed. The media also has a key role to play in raising awareness of women’s sport and highlighting the achievements of female athletes. Athletes need to continue to break down barriers and achieve great things, while coaches and sponsors need to provide more support for women’s sport, and investors need to be more willing to finance it. At the end of the day, sport is about competition and excellence, regardless of gender and sex. We should all be striving to create a level playing field where women are given the same opportunities as men across all industries especially ones like the sporting world, where young people’s eyes are always on it, looking for role models. There’ll come a time where we do achieve this goal and create a more inclusive world of sport for everyone, it’s inevitable, but let’s make sure we all do our part to accelerate it.