Gender inequality in sports always has been, and will forever remain a controversial topic of discussion. Even though this issue has come a long way over the years, especially after UNSECO acknowledging sports and physical activity as a human right in the year 1978, there is still a long way to go. This is one issue that all women around the world come across at some point in their lives. However, the sports industry is one area that has faced this issue in greater intensity, as compared to the rest.
Several female athletes struggle for their rights, so much so that they even end up having to give up on their dreams. These athletes are exteriorised, by fans, commentators and in some cases, even by their coaches, because women’s sports are seen as a show been put on for their pleasure. due to such mentalities, female athletes have to put up with sexist remarks, especially those coming from narrow-minded men who believe that women aren’t as physically strong or capable enough to make it in the sports industry. Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the initiator of the Modern Olympics once said
“No matter how toughened a sportswoman may be, her organism is not cut out to sustain certain shocks.”
One of the major frustrations of these women is the bias and discrepancy of pay between the two genders. Several surveys demonstrate that the pay gap between men and women athletes is larger than one may find in any other industry. The data revealed through these reports is, for the most of its part, acquired from countries that normally do well on social and economic fronts, such as Germany, Sweden, U.S, Australia, etc.
A very recent case based on this issue involved the USA women’s and men’s soccer teams bringing up the matter about inequality in pay between both the genders in sports. Five players from the women’s team lodged complaints against the US Federation with accusations of favouritism and discrimination in pay after the men’s World Cup 2014, and the women’s World Cup 2015, wherein the women’s team defeated Japan in the championship game, while the men’s team faced yet another early elimination in their history. Looking at these results, one would think that the women’s team was leading, but the amounts awarded to them denoted otherwise, even though over 30 million people watched the American women defeat the Asian women in a stupendous victory on TV, and it remains the most watched soccer game in the history of the country.
The women’s teams may be gaining popularity around the world, however, it appears that gender inequality is going to be an inevitable issue in sports for several years to come, at least for as long as people continue to deny that women have the talent, strength and capacity to perform at high levels. The American goalkeeper, Hope Solo once stated :
“We are the best in the world, have won 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.”
There are several people that believe that women’s sports isn’t engaging entertaining enough. As mentioned before, women sports have gained growing popularity over the years, but unfortunately, the media coverage and the sponsorships have failed to follow through, and therefore, gender discrimination in sports continues to exist.
Regardless of the moderate rise in the involvement of women in sports, they still somehow remain underrepresented in the decision-making fraternities of sports federations at the local, national and global levels. Sports have always traditionally been considered as a sector dominated by males and therefore, advancement towards gender equality in sports is hampered by the social constructs of femininity and masculinity. These social stereotypes often tend to relate sports with masculinity due to characteristics like physical strength, resilience, speed, and a very competitive, and at times confrontational spirit.
Women who indulge in sports activities are seen as “masculine” by some, whereas men who are not involved in any sport are perceived as “unmanly”. Such gender stereotypes don’t only impact participation of women in decision-making in sporting institutions, but also have an effect on their participation and contribution in sporting activities.
Now let’s talk stats! In the United States, 40% of the sports population are women. Nevertheless, only 6-8% of the entire media coverage is designated to them. Additionally, all the women-only sports stories make up only 3.5% of all the sports stories combined in the 4 crucial newspapers in the US.
Coaching is one other aspect of sports that faces gender discrimination to some extent. Several reports from eight EU member states suggest that only about 20%- 30% of all sports coaches in Europe are females. Female coaches are mostly found in sports that have a large proportion of female participants, such as gymnastics, dance, figure skating, etc, and these caches primarily work with women, adolescents and children who compete at local and regional levels.
Even though we, as a society, have made great progress, there is still a long way to go as we are not done yet. Both boys and girls should feel equally empowered and sports play a huge role in the same. No one should be left behind.